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Internet changes landscape of Golden Triangle gridiron teams




Andrew Hazzard/Dispatch Staff



High school football players have long been kings of American adolescents. 


Athleticism, uniforms and championships have always been able to catapult kids battling acne and chasing crushes into the spotlight. The growth of social media in the 21st century -- Twitter, Instagram and Facebook -- has given young athletes a platform to share their brand of wisdom, joy, frustration and experiences with the world. And people are following: Prep football stars are often minor celebrities on social media.  


Southern Elite Sports, a Mississippi prep sports blog, has named this weeks game between number three ranked Starkville High and top-ranked Oxford the game of the week. 


The sports blog, which has 555 followers on Twitter, tweeted at both schools' quarterbacks -- Brady Davis of Starkville and Jack Abraham of Oxford -- earlier in the week. 


Both young men have more than 700 followers on Twitter.  


Those followers can add scrutiny to young athletes, but Golden Triangle coaches said there have been no negative incidents -- but it has become an extra thing coaches have to address.  


"We just tell them to be careful what you say and what you do," said Columbus High coach Randal Montgomery.  


Many Twitter accounts are public, which means that anything local players say can be accessed by anyone at any time. 


"If they're going to be recruited, these things are going to be monitored," said Caledonia head coach Andy Crotwell.  


Local players do a good job of keeping their tweets expletive free and primarily motivational. Players will tweet out their excitement for upcoming games and encourage teammates to stay focused.  


Starkville head coach Jamie Mitchell said his staff cautions players about what they should or should not broadcast to the general public.  


"We certainly do (remind players to watch their speech)," Mitchell said. "Of course, it's out of our control, but we do."  


Mitchell thinks Twitter can be a form of positive reinforcement for his players, but he doesn't want players getting into arguments with rival schools on social media.  


"We've got some characters for sure," Mitchell said of his athletes. "It can be somewhat entertaining to see what they're doing and saying." 


This week a debate between players from Starkville and Bassfield High over who can truly carry the title of "Money Team" resulted in players tweeting photos of past state championship rings. The debates were expletive free and good-natured, and ended hilariously with one Starkville player stating that Bassfield -- a team in south Mississippi -- can only be the "Money Team" if the small town gets a MacDonalds.  


The self-proclaimed "Money Team" from Starkville will be playing in the "Baby Egg Bowl" Friday night against the top team in the state. 


Win or lose, the joy or frustration will certainly be broadcast over social media.




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