COLUMBUS — A “communication problem” turned out to be something good for Lowndes County.
That’s how West Point School District Superintendent Steve Montgomery referred to the situation West Point High School faced after the Mississippi High School Activities Association informed it that it had to cancel one of its 12 regular-season games.
West Point opted to cancel its Sept. 3 game against Columbus and then worked with Columbus schools Superintendent Del Phillips, who then teamed with Lowndes County schools Superintendent Mike Halford to make something of the opportunity.
For Lowndes County football fans, that opportunity means Columbus and New Hope high schools will play at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at New Hope. The game was able to be arranged because both teams had bye weeks.
New Hope High football coach Michael Bradley confirmed the game will be played. It will be his team’s first home game of the season following road games at Tupelo on Friday and at Amory on Sept. 3.
“It’s a pretty good game for the kids,” Bradley said. “They all know each other and it gives them a chance to compete against their friends. My hope is they keep it in perspective. It is just a high school football game, and (I hope) the non-players from both sides don’t take activities to the extreme, like what happened last time.”
Concern about crowd control and activities off the field associated with the Columbus-New Hope football game forced the series to be put on hiatus following the 2008 season.
The game this season could draw one of the biggest crowds in recent memory.
New Hope, the MHSAA Class 5A North runner-up last season, and Columbus, which defeated Class 3A North runner-up Aberdeen 8-6 in its opener Friday, have a lot of optimism surrounding their programs this season.
Columbus High could have benefited from a strong gate as well from the Sept. 3 game against West Point, but Montgomery said the game was the best choice for the Green Wave to try to cancel.
Montgomery said the school didn’t learn until this past week that it would have to cancel one of its games.
He said it was too late to try to cancel the game against Shannon, which West Point won 39-14. He said the program also couldn’t back out of a game against Mainland (Fla.) High on Friday in Daytona Beach, Fla., because it has invested more than $20,000 in the event.
The next likely choice on the schedule was Columbus, and Montgomery thanks Phillips and everyone else for making something out of a potentially bad situation.
“I just didn’t want any problem because I think someone would have appealed to try to get us out of the playoffs,” Montgomery said. “Dr. Phillips is really the one who worked on trying to help us. The schools in the Golden Triangle all work together to try to help each other out.”
The MHSAA allows its schools to play 10 regular-season games and one “Classic” game.
Montgomery said West Point High football coach Chris Chambless sent a letter to the MHSAA requesting permission for the school to play against Mainland (Fla.) in the Gridiron Challenge. He said the letter didn’t mention anything about the game being the Green Wave’s 12 regular-season game. He said the school received a letter dated April 3 giving it permission to play the game.
Montgomery said he received a call from MHSAA Executive Director Ennis Proctor, who asked him if he realized the school had 12 regular-season football games. He said he didn’t and that he was instructed to cancel one of the games.
Montgomery said Proctor told him the MHSAA didn’t realize West Point had 12 regular-season games on its schedule.
“One question I asked him was is there some way this might be prevented in the future,” Montgomery said. “I guess we could have appealed, but I didn’t want to go into all of that. Nobody else is playing 12 games. I guess coach Chambless will know don’t ever ask permission to play 12 games. Eleven games is the rule, and 11 is 11.”
Adam Minichino/The Commercial Dispatch