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Smith Column: Unfortunate rivalry series put on hold

December 23, 2010

Sports Editor

It's clear what Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell and athletic director Stan Miller had on their Christmas wish list this year.
Unfortunately, Louisville football coach M.C. Miller wasn't willing to put on his Santa hat.
Until about two weeks ago, Mitchell and Stan Miller thought they had an agreement to continue the football series between the Yellowjackets and the Wildcats, one that dated back at least 50 years.
Mitchell and Stan Miller were shocked to find out that Louisville's M.C. Miller had decided to back out of the contract and play in a Classic game in Birmingham, Ala. It was the same event that Starkville turned down because it felt keeping the series going with Louisville was important.
Even though M.C. Miller said there were attempts to "move things around" so the Wildcats and Jackets could still play each other, it didn't appear that he tried very hard.
Stan Miller even called his friend Billy Wade, the superintendent of Louisville schools, to see if he could persuade his coach to change his mind. Wade said he was going to "stick with his coach on this decision."
M.C. Miller is a respected high school football coach in this area, who has won a large number of games and led the Noxubee County Tigers to the Class 4A state championship in 2008, but it seems he's way off base in this case.
Why would a coach decide to make a three-hour trip to play a football game to make it hard for fans to attend, rather than make the short 30-minute drive up HIghway 25 to play its rival in front of a packed house. It just doesn't make sense.
The fans of the communities are going to suffer because they look forward to these types of games. Starkville is always going to have rivals in West Point, Tupelo, Noxubee County and others, but the Louisville game was special.
It's not only the Jackets and Wildcats who won't be seeing each other on the gridiron for the next two years.
The Starkville Daily News learned this week that the East Webster Wolverines and West Oktibbeha Timberwolves have also halted their series for at least two years.
According to East Webster coach Jimmy Carden, the two schools which are only 5 miles apart just couldn't agree on a date.
"They had the third week open and we had the second date open to start with," Carden said. "As hard as it is to get scheduling done, we just picked up Okolona in the second one and they had Montgomery County in the second one and that's just where it went."
It's Carden's hope as it is with Starkville and Louisville that the schools can get each other back on the schedule soon.
With the anticipated reaction of the respective fan bases, the sooner the teams play each other again the better.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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