Johnny Hill’s played a lot of football and coached even more, but he still gets excited when he stands on a college field.
Oxford High School’s coach will likely get a rush Saturday when his Chargers scrimmage Ripley in a jamboree at Ole Miss’ spacious Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
He won’t be the only one.
“I think it’s going to be special for these kids to play in an SEC stadium on an SEC field,” Hill said. “I know when I was in high school I would have killed to have been on it.”
Hill’s Chargers have used the Rebels’ facility in the past during rainy weather because it has artificial turf.
“When you stand out there on that field and here the echos, it’ll give you goosebumps,” he said. “I know this is important to the players and it will mean even more one of these days.”
New Albany joins Oxford, Ripley, Senatobia, Charleston, Shannon, Southaven and Tupelo for a day of football that kicks off at 8 a.m. with Oxford playing Ripley.
The Class 4A Bulldogs, coached by Ron Price, play 6A Tupelo at 2 p.m. in the day’s final two-quarter scrimmage.
“It’s motivation of course for our players to get to play Tupelo,” Price said. “The kids want to see where they stand. We’re thankful for the opportunity to play Tupelo.
“If something good happens, we can run with it.”
New Albany opens its regular season next week with a road trip to Booneville.
Hill gave the coaches of each team the option of working out some of the scrimmage rules. For example, Price and THS coach David Bradberry have opted to make their quarterbacks off limits for contact.
“Our quarterback (senior Tyler Basil) makes us go,” Price said. “He’s like having a coach on the field.”
Tupelo’s quarterback, junior Luke Hobson, shared duties last season. He made his first start on the road against South Panola and directed the Golden Wave to a pair of late-season victories against DeSoto Central and Horn Lake.
“I’m looking forward to the scrimmage,” Hobson said. “You want to be able to run everything successful with no busted plays.”
Price says his No. 1 goal is to have his team leave the Ole Miss turf without an injury. “You want to look good, look sharp and be able to execute,” he said. “It’s a good gauge to see what kind of condition we’re in.”
The artificial turf is expected to be 10 to 15 degrees hotter than a grass field.
Here’s the Ole Miss lineup:
8 a.m. – Oxford vs. Ripley
10 a.m. – Senatobia vs. Charleston
Noon – Shannon vs. Southaven
2 p.m. –Tupelo vs. New Albany
Here’s the MSU lineup:
11 a.m. – West Lauderdale vs. Noxubee County
1 p.m. – Callaway vs. Starkville
3 p.m. – Brandon vs. Columbus
5 p.m. – IAHS vs. West Point
7 p.m. – Philadelphia vs. New Hope
In other jamboree news, Aberdeen will travel to Indianola Gentry for a 4 p.m. Saturday matchup against Cleveland.
Gene Phelp/NEMS Daily Journal