It has become customary to offer fans in the Pine Belt a little travelogue of some interesting, and maybe even important, games for 2014.
These are 20 must-see games, with at least one game for each week of the season, that should allow fans to catch every team in the Pine Belt at least once.
So, buckle your seat belts and let’s hit the road.
• Aug. 22 — Richton at Perry Central: It’s the first Friday night of the season, and nothing says Friday night football like a contest between two bitter county rivals.
• Aug. 23 — Petal at Hattiesburg: This Saturday opener will go a long way to answering the question of whether the Tigers are ready to return to the state’s elite.
• Aug. 29 — Laurel at Hattiesburg: Every year, no matter what, HHS and the Golden Tornadoes battle for the Little Brown Jug, still one of the coolest trophies in prep sports.
• Aug. 29 — FCAHS at Bassfield: Lee Sullivan takes over as the Aggies’ head coach, and he gets a stern season-opening baptism in fire against the speedy Yellowjackets.
• Sept. 4 — East Marion at West Marion: Which side of the Pearl River is the best side? This annual Thursday night clash between the Eagles and Trojans will decide.
• Sept. 5 — Seminary at North Forrest: Don’t let last year’s 23-0 Bulldog win fool you. This has quietly become a spirited rivalry between two neighboring schools.
• Sept. 12 — Madison Central at Petal: Two of Mississippi’s coaching masters go head-to-head, when Bobby Hall brings his Jaguars to face Marcus Boyles and the Panthers.
• Sept. 12 — PCS at Richton: The Bobcats will bring a potent ground game, led by senior Fate Eiland, into this inter-associational battle against the Rebels.
• Sept. 19 — Hattiesburg at Oak Grove: The Tigers complete a murderer’s row of non-region games against the Warriors in the annual Hub City Classic.
• Sept. 19 — Purvis at FCAHS: It’s hard to believe the Tornadoes have not beaten the Aggies since 1999. Maybe this is the year they break the jinx.
• Sept. 26 — Collins at Seminary: The Tigers’ multi-talented athlete, Mark McLaurin, goes up against what is expected to be a stingy Bulldog defense.
• Sept. 26 — Jackson Prep at Bassfield: Last year, the Patriots handed Bassfield its only defeat, in overtime. Don’t think for a minute that the Yellowjackets have forgotten.
• Oct. 3 — Oak Grove at Petal: Quite simply, the best rivalry in the Pine Belt. The two communities don’t care for each other, and the stakes are usually enormous.
• Oct. 3 — Purvis at Columbia: The Tornadoes and Wildcats open Region 7-4A play with a clash that could decide who wins the region.
• Oct. 10 — FCAHS at Quitman: The past two seasons the Aggies and Panthers have played three critical and exciting games, twice in the playoffs.
• Oct. 17 — Stringer at Lumberton: Two of the top contenders in Class 1A hook up in a critical game in what promises to be an exciting playoff race in Region 4-1A.
• Oct. 24 — Brandon at Oak Grove: The Bulldogs bring one of the state’s best quarterbacks, senior Gardner Minshew, to challenge the Warriors in a big Region 3-6A battle.
• Oct. 31 — Bassfield at East Marion: Traditionally, this season-ending battle of Class 2A championship contenders sets the stage for the playoffs.
• Oct. 31 — Columbia Academy at PCS: Can Larry Dolan bring some Aggie magic to the Cougars? He’ll need all he can conjure up against the powerful Bobcats.
• Nov. 7 — Salem at Sacred Heart: Finish the regular season with a final visit to historic San Antonio Field, where the Crusaders are growing their program.
Contact sports writer Stan Caldwell at (601) 584-3137.