New Hope High School quarterback Kyree Fields stretches for a score against Amory on Friday night in their scrimmage at the New Hope Jamboree at Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch Buy this photo.
August 12, 2017 10:39:36 PM
Aimee Bradley stopped to do an interview discussing the New Hope Jamboree.
The eight-game high school football preseason event was held Friday and Saturday at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium. Bradley, the New Hope High School booster club vice president, has helped oversee the event the last five years.
"It's a labor of love," Bradley said. "At New Hope, we aren't going to do anything halfway. We are going to go out and make it special. Each year, the event grows and we just take it in stride. We want to make it bigger and better."
During the interview, Bradley asked to take a break so she could get a couple of students to help unload a food order. The interview resumed before being halted again when another set of players needed help with trash detail.
It is the type of organization needed to make the event the state's best preseason football event.
"It takes so many people," New Hope coach Kris Pickle said. "We probably have 50 or 60 people who block off this weekend. They plan for several weeks for this weekend. I say I have the easy part because I simply put the games together. Even that has become a challenge because more and more teams want to come each year. The word has gotten out about what kind of event we host."
Pickle said the booster club members are the backbone of the event. He quickly adds that former booster club members come back and help out. He said people from the community not necessarily connected to the current New Hope High team come back and support and help out.
High school and junior high coaches are involved, as well as dozens of players. The Friday night chain crew works every game. It is like a Friday night in the regular season multiplied by eight.
"It's the best event in the state," Louisville coach M.C. Miller said. "The kids really look forward to playing at State. It's something different. After a couple of weeks of practice, it is a good reward. The New Hope people do a tremendous job."
Vowell's Food Market makes major contributions to the food lounge. Many booster club members contribute food items of their own.
"We try to feed 16 coaching staffs," Bradley said. "Everybody is welcome. We go out of our way to have some top-notch hospitality. It is the New Hope way. For the officials, this is a big weekend. We have eight crews that work the eight games. We have other crews here being trained. It's the preseason for everybody. We are trying to accommodate all of these faces and make them feel like they are at home."
From a local standpoint, Columbus, New Hope, Starkville, West Point, Louisville, and Noxubee County competed. Starkville coach Chris Jones made his debut with the Yellow Jackets as the school returned after a one-year absence. Houston and Kemper County were added last minute. They already had agreed to scrimmage but didn't have a location.
"We want it to grow," Bradley said. "We want it bigger and better. Plans for this event start early. We are working on everything for two or three months. I don't think there is one aspect of the jamboree planning that is overlooked. We have done this long enough to have a general idea of what to do.
"On top of it is everybody says yes. It is a yes community. This is something we needed to do and we embrace it with open arms."
In 2014, Noxubee County High coach Tyrone Shorter challenged his team to start and finish the season at Davis Wade Stadium. The Tigers did just that. Noxubee County won the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State championship at Davis Wade Stadium later that year.
West Point did the same in Class 5A in 2016.
"It's a great experience," Shorter said. "It's a chance for the kids to play on this field. For a lot of them, they will never have an opportunity like this again. Plus, it's good competition. Each year we are lined up with somebody that is going to make us better. I think the kids look forward to this opportunity."
As the whistles blow and the first downs are earned, Bradley is barking orders to high school and junior high students. Beta Club members from the school get community service credit for working the event. Football players are there because this is their sport and it is an expectation.
No one talks back. No one frowns. Even cell phones are scarce. In this day and time, there is a major accomplishment.
"There is an expectation," Bradley said. "This has been called the best preseason event in the state. It is a compliment we take seriously. We have to go out there and back that up."
Scott Walters is a sports writer for The Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
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