COLUMN: Jug offers walk through history

It was like taking a walk through football history.

Tuesday night, I took the time to type in the year-by-year scores for the Battle for the Little Brown Jug, the rivalry between Hattiesburg and Laurel high schools, and as I typed in each year’s score I could almost see the changes.

For those who may be new to the area, the Little Brown Jug represents the longest continuously-played rivalry in Mississippi.

There are few rivalries in the state that date back earlier than 1922, when the first game between Laurel and Hattiesburg was played, and none have been played every single season, through wars and hurricanes, good times and bad.

Friday, the Tigers and the Golden Tornadoes will clash for the 92nd consecutive season, and if the rivalry isn’t quite what it used to be, the two sides still take it seriously indeed. Possessing the Jug for a year is something to brag about.

Series of streaks

One thing that has always struck me about the Little Brown Jug rivalry is how one team or the other has tended to dominate the series over a long stretch of years.

Laurel had the first extended period of dominance in the rivalry. From 1936 to 1950, the Tornadoes won 12 times and tied twice. HHS’s only win in that period was a 19-7 win in 1941.

In the mid-50s, though, Hattiesburg had a streak of its own, taking five of seven meetings, plus a tie. HHS also won five straight times between 1963 and 1967.

Beginning in ’67, however, the Tornadoes won 12 of 14 meetings, including eight straight at one point. That changed again when Willie Coats came to Hattiesburg as coach in 1984 and inaugurated the Tigers’ longest stretch of dominance, winning 12 of the next 15.

It was during that period that the rivalry underwent some fundamental changes. Until the mid-1980s, the Jug game was always the final game of the season and in earlier seasons – before the advent of the state playoffs – it was played on Thanksgiving Day.

But changing demographics put the two schools in different classes, and the district or region system for the playoffs meant the game could no longer be played at the end of the year. Now, of course, the rivalry has taken its place as the second game of the season.

This year’s game will be Between the Bricks at historic Watkins Field, home of the Tornadoes since 1929, and Laurel will be looking to avenge last season’s 38-0 whipping at the hands of the Tigers, which was Hattiesburg’s largest margin of victory ever in the series.

Although the Battle for the Little Brown Jug has changed over the years, it’s still one of the state’s premier rivalries and there should be plenty of excitement come Friday night.

Contact Stan Caldwell at (601) 584-3137.

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