By Gene Phelps
JACKSON – Lafayette football coach Eric Robertson has a tip for Oxford Wal-Mart shoppers.
“If you want to get in and out of Wal-Mart, Dec. 7 is the day,” Robertson said, then smiled.
The heated “Crosstown Classic” rivalry moves to Jackson on Saturday, where Robertson’s Commodores in Class 4A and Oxford’s undefeated Chargers in Class 5A will play for state championships at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Lafayette (10-5) plays Forrest County AHS (12-2) at 4 p.m. The Commodores beat Cleveland 42-19 last week in the North finals.
Oxford (14-0) plays Picayune (11-2) at 7:30 p.m. The Chargers defeated Jackson Callaway 23-7 in the North finals.
“It’s pretty crazy for our whole town and for both teams to be here,” Oxford tight end Ethan Holmes said at Monday’s MHSAA Gridiron Classic press conference. “It’s an intense rivalry for the players and the fans, but I’d definitely like to see both teams win.
“It would be great for Lafayette County.”
Coaches, players and fans for both schools will likely be cheering for each other instead of against each other.
“The only time I want Oxford to lose is when they’re playing us,” Lafayette running back D.K. Buford said. “I’m not an Oxford Charger hater.”
In this season’s annual Crosstown Classic, the Chargers rolled to a 30-0 win against Buford’s team, one that had a 3-5 record before winning seven straight to earn a berth in the title game. The Commodores won state championships in 2010 and 2011. This is Oxford’s first trip to Jackson in 10 years.
“It’s pretty unique, two schools, two miles apart,” Oxford coach Johnny Hill said.
Lafayette’s Robertson, who was defensive coordinator for Oxford from 2000 to ’04, says it’s a special week for both programs.
“It’s super nice,” he said. “All the kids on both teams know each other. This is great for our community.”
Oxford assistant coach Jake Hill, the son of the Chargers’ head coach, said that while the rivalry is intense, he’ll be pulling for the Commodores when they take the field Saturday.
“I’ve coached with Eric (Robertson) when he was in Oxford,” Hill said. “I’ve coached with other guys on their staff. Absolutely, I’ll be pulling for them.”