TUPELO – Lee Stratton is new when it comes to sitting behind the principal’s desk at Tupelo High School.
However, he’s no novice when it comes to the Tupelo-South Panola football rivalry.
“I’m the new principal, but I’ve been here 25 years,” said the former Golden Wave boys basketball coach and assistant principal. “I’ve been involved in this game a long time.
“I was here two years ago, and it couldn’t have been a bigger night,” he added, referring to Tupelo’s pulse-pounding 14-13 loss to the visiting Tigers. “It was one of the most unbelievable games I’ve seen on the high school level. It was an awesome event.”
South Panola’s return visit to face its Division 1-6A rival Oct. 15 has an added twist – the game is being televised regionally by Fox Sports South as a part of Cellular South’s five-game “Y’all vs. Us” package. The game was announced Tuesday in a press conference at Tupelo High School.
The telecast, which has the potential to reach 2.1 million households, will feature pyrotechnics, music, aerial video and a Jumbotron.
This marks the second straight year South Panola has been a part of the “Y’all vs. Us” package. The Tigers played division rival Olive Branch last season.
“It’s a huge event,” Stratton said of the TV games. “I know last year some of our students stayed home on Friday night and didn’t come to our game so they could watch South Panola-Olive Branch.”
South Panola, which enters the 2010 season as the favorite to repeat as state champion, looks forward to the exposure.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Tigers coach Lance Pogue said. “We’re very proud of what we’ve done at South Panola. Football means so much to our town, our school, our community.
“We’ve got a lot of tough games before this game arrives, but when it comes we’ll be very excited about it. Our kids are still playing the tapes of last year’s game (against Olive Branch).”
Tupelo, a 42-0 loser to the Tigers last season in Batesville, kicks off its first season under coach David Bradberry.
“This is a great opportunity for Tupelo High School,” he said. “We’re excited about being a part of this game.”
Bradberry was involved with a “Y’all vs. Us” game last year – Madison Central-Clinton – while he was working for the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
“I got an outside view of what’s going on,” he said. “It’s a professionally done deal from start to finish. It’s something our kids will remember for a long time.”
South Panola leads the series 15-6 and has won eight straight games. The Golden Wave’s last win came in 2001, 17-14 in Batesville.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal