SCOOBA -- East Mississippi Community College women's basketball coach Sharon Thompson and men's basketball coach Billy Begley take pride in their school's football program. "They set the tone on campus for athletics," Thompson said. "They have shown what it takes to win national championships. A high-profile program like that helps grow the student base, but it also helps grow the other sports programs." While many on the EMCC campus are consumed by the No. 3 football team and its pursuit of a state and national championship, it is time for some basketball.
Under coach Randal Montgomery, the Columbus Falcons have made it a habit of playing big football games. Columbus now flirts with statewide rankings and region championships. Crowds have grown, and support is at an all-time high for the program. If you look closely, the Columbus junior high teams were dominant this year. While a huge senior class will graduate this year, there is plenty of reasons to believe the success will continue.
We have now hit the stretch run for Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) football for the 2016 season.
A year older and wiser with all of its pieces back is an enviable position to be in. Debbie Antonelli doesn't need nearly 30 years experience as a college basketball television analyst and commentator to know experience and depth have pushed the 2016-17 Mississippi State women's basketball team into the top 15 of all of the preseason rankings.
Believe it or not, the final week of the regular season is here for Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) teams in Class AAA and Class A/AA. Heritage Academy and Starkville Academy will look to work their way up the seeding charts with critical home wins to complete district play. In the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) ranks, Starkville and New Hope face must-wins at home. Columbus and West Point hit the road needing to win to keep their stocks high. Here is what to watch for week in No. 10:
Noxubee County High School sophomore Kyziah Pruitt grew up watching the school's football team. He knew the honor it was going to be to play for Tyrone Shorter. Shorter has worked as a coach at Noxubee County High for 19 years. He served as an assistant and then defensive coordinator for veteran coach M.C. Miller, and played a key role in the program's first state title. Since taking over as coach for Miller in 2010, Shorter has led the Tigers to three more Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A state championships.
During its domination of Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) football this decade, East Mississippi Community College has gotten pretty much whatever it wanted. From favorable bowl assignments to lofty national rankings to signing the best players in the state, coach Buddy Stephens and his staff have put a plan in place to build arguably the nation's best program. What EMCC hasn't had is a rival.
We are rapidly reaching the end of the prep football season. Some teams already are looking ahead to the playoffs, while others know a win or two is needed right away to ensure a postseason berth. Most of our area teams are traveling this week, so a lot of coaches will talk about the challenges of winning on the road. Regardless of the venue, now is the time, and some teams really need to get busy. Here is what we are watching for in Week No. 9:
It was supposed to be the biggest football weekend of the season at Mississippi State. A Friday night concert set the stage for MSU's game Saturday against Auburn. Talk about your lost weekends, huh?
Some area Class 5A and 6A teams are at the crossroads in the third week of Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) region play. As October rolls in, it is too early in the month for a second region loss. In Class 6A, Columbus and Starkville will be in bounce-back mode Friday night. Columbus will look to shake off a loss to Tupelo, while Starkville will look to shake off a loss to Northwest Rankin. In Class 5A, New Hope and West Point will try to ride the momentum of victories from last week. Here is what to watch for in Week No. 8:
There is an opening.
The anticipation has been building for Friday night's Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A, Region 1 showdown between third-ranked Tupelo and Columbus. Columbus opened the season with some of the highest expectations in program history. At the midway mark of the schedule, the Falcons are at 3-2. Columbus easily could be 5-0. Its losses were to Noxubee County and West Point by a combined five points. Tupelo is undefeated and will provide Columbus one of its biggest challenges to date. Columbus is 3-0 on the road and 0-2 at home this season. While this is one the state's marquee matchups, there will be several other good games Friday night.
One doesn't need a calendar to know how important the prep football games are this weekend. When the temperatures start dropping, it's a safe bet that region play has begun. The quest for playoff berths heats up as the weather cools down. We are barreling toward October with several teams having a lot on the table. Let's look at the worksheet on some of our playoff hopefuls:
Gas up the recreational vehicle. Check to see which credit card is giving out free airline miles and sign up. If you already have one of those credit cards, get ready to accumulate some frequent flier miles into free tickets. You better be ready because those are some of the things you're going to have to do in November and December if you want to see the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
This is a big week. Columbus, Starkville, New Hope, and West Point begin Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) region play Friday night. Those four teams are 11-5 as the curtain goes up on the most important part of the season.
For the Columbus High School football team, the crossroads of the season have now been reached.
Another excellent week of prep football action is on tap throughout the Golden Triangle area. Noxubee County-West Point, Starkville-Meridian, and New Hope-Caledonia make for some outstanding matchups as teams are beginning to wind down their respective non-region schedules.
STARKVILLE Raise you hand if you saw this coming. Two games into the 2016 football season, it's still hard to know what to make of the Mississippi State football team. For now, the Bulldogs reside in that murky zone between awful and awesome. Most likely, Bulldog fans are fine with that uncertainty.
We reach the official one-third mark of the prep football season this week.
The East Mississippi Community College football program has finally paid the bill in full.
1. Westburg powers MSU past North Carolina COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Berkery adds former MLB pitcher Oswalt to staff at Starkville Academy HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS