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Building a memory: State championship teams talk about enjoying week

November 27, 2012

JACKSON – Bob Stanley remembered what it was like to represent Starkville High School in the Class 5A State championship game in 1981.

Now as a representative of Wilson Sporting Goods, Stanley had a message to the latest generation of high school football players getting ready to play for state championships this weekend.

"You need to make sure to take all of this in," Stanley said to the crowd gathered for Monday morning's press conference at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. "It was a huge deal for me because two years before we played for the State championship in 1981, there was no state championship. We had only won two games the previous year, then was able to go 12-0 the next year with a brand new coach (Willis Wright) and had the opportunity to play South Natchez for the State championship.

"I can't remember things from a week ago, but 31 years ago, that whole experience and that day is something I remember. I can remember every play and the motivation speech by coach Wright."

The Yellowjackets make their ninth State championship appearance Saturday night when they take on the Pascagoula Panthers in the Class 5A game at 7 p.m. during the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Mississippi Gridiron Classic weekend.

"We like to hope it started with that 1981 team and brought that tradition," Stanley said of Starkville's success.

Wilson Sporting Goods is based out of Chicago, but Stanley covers Mississippi, part of Louisiana, part of Alabama and part of Florida.

Being a part of the State championships as part of Wilson is something Stanley is "glad to be a part of" and expects it to be "a great experience."

The Jackets improved their record to 11-3 this season after defeating West Point 29-28 in overtime for the North Class 5A title last Friday. They are making their second-consecutive trip to the State championship game.

"It never goes without saying how blessed and fortunate we are to be here," SHS coach Jamie Mitchell said during the press conference. "Kids dream about this and it's great to be here again. Pascagoula has done a great job with their program and it's going to take everything we've got to stay in there with those guys."
Mitchell continues to be impressed with the strides the Mississippi High School Activities Association has made in promoting its championships.

"I'm one of the older guys here, but it's great to see what the Mississippi High School Activities Association has done with this," Mitchell said. "What an honor to be here with the coaches, schools and administrators. It is a great day."

There were two other area schools represented at Monday's press conference. The Eupora Eagles and French Camp Panthers play back-to-back to kick off the weekend on Friday.

Eupora, under the leadership of coach Junior Graham, meets Bassfield for the Class 2A State crown Friday at 3 p.m.

"This will never get old," Graham said. "Having an opportunity to be a part of this press conference and bringing your kids down, it's always a good experience.

"The kids are excited. They know what we're facing as far as Bassfield because they have a tremendous team. Our kids are excited about being here and having the chance to compete for a championship."

French Camp coach Nathan Wright said on the press conference stage that there weren't many that thought at the beginning of the year that the Panthers would be playing for a State title.

After beating Shaw 28-8, French Camp have realized that feat for the first time.

"We're humbled to be here," Wright said. "We are blessed to be where we are. We are so thankful. We've been able to go through the year and be pretty healthy so we're thankful for that. We appreciate it so much for our fans and kids have really worked hard. They have really played hard and maintained a humility about them that is worthy of honor. I just hope to carry ourselves well."

The Panthers face Stringer in the Class A State championship at 11 a.m. Friday.

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