High school football is synonymous with Friday nights in Mississippi, but Bobby Hall has always been a proponent for playing the biggest games of the season a day earlier.
Five games open the 2014 season on Aug. 21 with no other drawing more of the spotlight and attention than Madison Central-Brandon.
“We’re the only show in town,” Hall said. “It’s a beautiful thing to me.”
Tonight, the lights shine a little brighter on two teams fighting to earn the Kings of the Metro Area title. For a second straight year, the Jaguars and the Bulldogs are facing off in the first game of the season.
A game whose implications expand beyond Week 1.
“It sets the tone for the season,” Madison Central quarterback Trey Smith said. “When you win a big game like this you’re really motivated to work hard and win some more. When you lose it makes you determined to get better.”
The former can be said for the Bulldogs who won last year’s game 21-14 and went on to win their next five match ups by outscoring opponents 180-44.
Unlike others across the state, Madison Central and Brandon aren’t starting out their seasons with a warmup. That’s what last week’s jamborees were for.
Both teams have a strong foundation of success and enter 2014 as legitimate contenders in Class 6A. Starting out this year against each other serves as preparation for what they will face when district play begins in about a month.
“It’s good practice for us,” Brandon quarterback Gardner Minshew said. “A game like that teaches us to prepare the right way whereas if we were to play weaker teams in the beginning, people would think we could just ease into our schedule and that’s not the case.”
On Thursday evening, Brandon coach Brad Peterson is expecting standing room only for a game that draws the interest of more than just fans of both programs.
He’s heard the hype and build up surrounding the game since the last time these two teams met: coaching against his former high school coach, the momentum that comes with starting off the season with a victory, retaining Bulldogs M.O. as the team to beat in the metro area.
Peterson wants his players to feel the pressure of competing against a quality opponent, but is preparing his team the same way for Madison Central that he will next week for Pearl and Clinton two weeks after that.
“I don’t put all my eggs in one basket and sell out on this game as make or break for our season because we can’t afford to do that,” Peterson said.
While the atmosphere surrounding Thursday’s opener has a similar feeling to that of state championship week, Peterson and his staff aim to contain the hype because one game, regardless of it being in Week 1 or Week 12, cannot define an entire season.
“Let’s just say we lose the game,” he said. “I have to be ready to get our guys back and I can’t do that by selling out and making it the biggest game of the century.”
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.