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No title games in the south

CLINTON — It will be a bit of a longer drive for any prep football fans in Pearl River County that want to attend the state championships in prep football.

The announcement came earlier this week at a news conference by the Mississippi High School Activities Association that for at least the next four seasons the title tilts in all six classifications will take place in north Mississippi, either at Ole Miss or Mississippi State.

The title games had been played for the last three decades in the Jackson area, including the past 22 years at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium.

Despite previous rumors to the contrary, Southern Mississippi has not yet been awarded a state championship weekend, all though it will be a part or hosting the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Classic over the next four years.

“We’ve looked at the next four years as far as scheduling, and we are very careful not to go too far in the future,” MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said, explaining why no title games would be played in the south part of the state. “I coached a long time. I was on the Coast for a number of years. I know if you talk to our coaches, they say they’ll go whereever they need to go to play a state championship event.

“Our decision is made on what’s best for our student-athletes and our schools in terms of playing in the very best venues and best facilities. That’s why they play the Louisiana football championships at the New Orleans Superdome. That’s what we are doing in this state. Cost is always a factor, but it’s about giving our students an opportunity to participate in those great facilities.”

Davis-Wade Stadium on the campus of Mississippi State University in Starkville and Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium on the Ole Miss campus will rotate the next four championship weekend series depending where that year’s Egg Bowl game between the Bulldogs and Rebels is being played.

“We just feel like the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Classic is a tremendous opportunity to showcase Southern Miss and the Hattiesburg area,” Hinton added. “That’s especially true, bringing it to Mississippi for the first time and bringing these terrific athletes every other year to their facility.”

Officials at Southern Mississippi still harbor hopes that they will eventually get their chance to host the state title games as well.

“We look forward to assisting the MHSAA and their partners in ensuring a first-class environment and game at M.M. Roberts Stadium,” Southern Miss Athletics Director Bill McGillis said. “We also are very much looking forward to the opportunity to bring the MHSAA state football championships to M.M. Roberts Stadium and South Mississippi in 2018 and periodic years thereafter.”

Last season, teams from the south part of the state won five of six state football championships including Oak Grove in Class 6A, Picayune in Class 5A, Forrest County AHS in Class 4A, Bassfield in Class 2A and French Camp in Class 1A. “We think this is a win-win situation for everyone involved,” Hinton concluded. “We made a decision based on the next four years for both the state title games and the all-star game. We will continue to do what we feel is best for our student-athletes as we make future decisions.”

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