August 7, 2017 10:01:14 PM
Game week has finally arrived with practice games set for both the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) and Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) this weekend.
The main attraction will be the New Hope Jamboree, which has three games Friday and five games Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium on the Mississippi State campus.
Once we get this weekend out of the way, we are on the way to real games the following weekend.
Let's fill the schedule with the biggest games of the season:
Week 1 - Starkville High at Noxubee County (Aug. 18)
One of the area's best rivalry games will start the season in Macon.
Starkville won 24-21 last season. A year before, Jeffery Simmons was dominate as Noxubee County won 26-20 in double overtime.
Noxubee County always plays the state's most challenging schedule. For Starkville, this will be the debut of new coach Chris Jones.
Week 2 - Oxford at Starkville High (Aug. 25)
The latest installment of the "Little Egg Bowl" takes place at Starkville as the Yellow Jackets host the Chargers.
Starkville took a sloppy 28-16 win at Oxford last season. Traditionally, the contests have been well-played and decide late.
With Oxford realigned and now in Class 6A, this could also be the first of two meetings between the rivals.
Week 3 - Starkville High at West Point (Sept. 1)
Another really good rivalry games takes place in Clay County as West Point looks to defend the home turf.
A year ago, Starkville won 28-6. It turns out that West Point won its final 13 games and the Class 5A state championship, while Starkville tail-spun and missed the Class 6A playoffs altogether.
The 2012 playoff game - which Starkville won 29-28 in overtime - is the game that redefined this rivalry. In recent years, similar drama has been missing.
Hopefully, this year it returns.
Week 4 - Columbus at Starkville High (Sept. 8)
If you sense a theme developing you are right. Quite simply, Starkville has an outstanding non-region schedule. This game is important because the schools have not played 2014 when Starkville won 43-0 in a region game.
For a couple of years, this renewal has been in the works. Jones and Columbus coach Randal Montgomery finally got the deal done. The box office receipts should make it worthwhile.
Week 5 - West Point at Noxubee County (Sept. 15)
Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter does not show his displeasure very often.
However, after West Point won last season's meeting, 47-6 at home, it was hard to find anything the Tigers did even remotely well.
Built as a Top 10 matchup going in, West Point put the hammer down early and led 41-6 at halftime.
This contest will be much different.
Week 6 - New Hope at Caledonia (Sept. 22)
The bragging rights for half of Lowndes County will be decided on a Friday night in Caledonia.
Ricky Kendrick returns to the head coaching duties for Caledonia. New Hope is embracing a drop down in competition where it should be more competitive in Class 4A.
While the two schools are both in Class 4A now, this is not a region game. New Hope is paired with Louisville and Noxubee County in Region 4, while Caledonia has been sent to Region 2 with Amory and friends.
New Hope won 49-10 last season.
Week 7 - New Hope at Louisville (Sept. 29)
New Hope officially kicks off Class 4A, Region 4 play the following Friday at Hinze Stadium.
Louisville has one of the biggest lines in the state. New Hope's challenge is to be competitive at the line of scrimmage.
The good news for New Hope is that four of five teams in the region will make the playoffs. A chance to take the lead in a race for first-round home field advantage will be on the line here.
Week 8 - Louisville at Noxubee County (Oct. 6)
The latest installment of the "Toothpick Bowl" could determine the Class 4A, Region 4 champion, or at least first-round playoff teams at home.
Last season, Noxubee County overcame a horrible second half to nail down a 34-26 win at Louisville. This will be another one of those times where Shorter was less than thrilled.
The challenge will be to keep Noxubee quarterback Maliek Stallings on his feet and away from the pressure of Louisville defensive end Charles Moore.
Week 9 - Starkville Academy at Heritage Academy (Oct. 13)
Even though the season hasn't even started, Starkville Academy players are talking about beating Heritage Academy. In Columbus, Heritage Academy players are talking about beating Starkville Academy.
The district championship will most likely be decided on the night of the rivalry contest.
Heritage Academy coach Sean Harrison turned heads with 10 wins in his first season. A 26-17 win at Starkville Academy was included in that group.
Week 10 - West Lowndes at Noxapater (Oct. 20)
One of the huge Class 1A, Region 3 games is set for Noxapater.
Coach Anthony King has talked about depth and a huge line for West Lowndes. The Panthers do not have a lot of seniors but they are hoping size and speed will make up for it.
A year ago, West Lowndes finished 6-1 in region play to garner a playoff berth. However, a first-round upset loss at home ended the season.
Week 11 - Noxubee County at New Hope (Oct. 27)
Plans for the playoffs will be in full swing when these teams meet in the final game of the regular season.
Moving to Class 4A will be a good thing for New Hope. Facing Noxubee County while in Class 4A will be a tough thing.
It will be interesting to see which teams has the momentum at this time in the season. Either could be gearing up for a state championship run.
Week 12 - Clinton at Starkville High (Nov. 3)
Let's go back to Yellow Jacket Stadium for the regular season finale.
Clinton beat Willie Gay and Starkville 35-28 last season. That officially knocked the Yellow Jackets out of the Class 6A playoffs.
November is always the right time of year for some revenge.
Scott Walters is a sports reporter for the Commercial Dispatch. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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