EDITORIAL: Football exposure

Tupelo High School’s nationally recognized sports program gains important additional visibility with Tuesday’s formal confirmation that the Oct. 15 Tupelo vs. South Panola football game will be regionally televised by Fox Sports South as part of the “Y’all vs. Us” series of rivalries, sponsored by Mississippi-based Cellular South.
The high-visibility football series has been dominated by South Panola, one of the premier football programs in the nation and a consistent winner of Mississippi Division 6-A (and formerly 5-A) championships. The Tigers lead the series against the Golden Wave 15-6.
However, in 2008, with 10,000 fans jamming the THS stadium and ringing the field, Tupelo came as close to beating South Panola, undefeated for seven consecutive seasons, as any opponent, in a heart-stopping 14-13 loss.
The Oct. 15 game this season in Tupelo offers an opportunity for THS and the larger community to showcase itself to a 2.1 million household audience. South Panola appeared in the series on Fox in the 2009 season against rival Olive Branch.
The free marketing value of inclusion in the telecast series takes exposure of the THS athletic program, rated third best in the nation several years ago by Sports Illustrated, and the community’s support to a new level outside Northeast Mississippi.
New THS head football coach David Bradberry, who was an official of the Mississippi High School Activities Association before accepting the Tupelo post, said he observed last year’s Madison Central-Clinton telecast and preparations as an outsider. Bradberry said he was impressed with the quality brought to the game atmosphere by FSS.
He said the game-night show includes a Jumbotron screen, pyrotechnics, and aerial video. The game is an opportunity for THS to showcase its nationally honored marching band and generally roll out the red carpet of civic hospitality.
The THS vs. South Panola series is not as old as some of the storied long-term rivalries in prep football nationwide, but it has become a “big game” every season for both teams. The demise of football conferences and the instigation of regional division schedules based on enrollment redefined tradition in Mississippi high school football, creating rivalries that might never have happened under the old formula, which was more geographically centered (except for the Big 8 Conference) and did not include playoffs leading to statewide champions.
The portability of cable TV added another dimension, making key “rivalry games” known to audiences outside the states in which the high school contests are played.
We hope every THS fan marks Oct. 15 as a must-attend night, aiming for both a victory and a widespread community good impression across the FSS viewership.

NEMS Daily Journal