The calm before the storm ...

That's what this time of the year is for the high school football and softball programs in Mississippi. The players and coaches have been going through the summer weightlifting and running programs, preparing for their upcoming fall season. That's about over. Practice officially starts August 5 and it won't be long until it all begins.

For football, two quarter scrimmages with other teams are allowed on the weekend of Aug. 16-17; and, it all kicks off the following weekend of Aug. 22-23 with Classic games. Officially, those are "preseason" games and may not count ... but they count.

Softball is much the same way. Members of the Mississippi High School Activities Association will be playing slow-pitch. The first scrimmage games may be held Aug. 10. Classic games will be held Aug. 17 and the season starts on Monday, Aug. 19. Leake Academy, meanwhile, is a member of the Mississippi Independent Schools Association and the Lady Rebels will be playing their fast-pitch season in the fall.

As I said, it's all right around the corner. The Neshoba County Fair gets under way July 26 and we'll be covering the annual Heart O' Dixie Triathlon. Then nine days later, it's August 5 and another high school sports year begins.

Looking ahead

Here at the Democrat, we are already getting ready for our big push for the annual Football tab, which will be published August 21.

Looking ahead, there are several big football games in the area this fall that our readers need to mark on their calendar.

Of course, the biggest game (from our point of view) comes Sept. 6 when Philadelphia and Neshoba Central will renew their football rivalry after a two year rest. The big game will be held at Neshoba Central's Rocket Field and you better come early if you want a seat. I expect it's going to be packed.

Philadelphia has another big game the next week when the Tornadoes travel to Louisville. It's been a while since those two teams have played and it should be another big one.

The Tornadoes see their first action August 17 when they tangle with Water Valley in the Ole Miss Jamboree. They compete in the Region 5-3A and have been joined this year by Forest and Raleigh, which should also be good matchups. Other region foes include Choctaw Central, Southeast Lauderdale and Heidelberg High School.

Neshoba Central plays a jamboree on Aug. 16 at Meridian High School, and then opens at Newton County on Aug. 23. This has the makings for another local rivalry game. As best I can tell, it will be the first meeting between the two schools during football season, though they have met a few years ago in a spring jamboree. The Rockets then renew an old rivalry with Kosciusko at home on August 23.

Neshoba Central competes in Region 2-5A. They have picked up a couple of new region foes in Germantown and Vicksburg. Also on the slate will be Pearl, Ridgeland, Canton, Lanier and Callaway.

Choctaw Central has three big games early after playing in the Noxapater Jamboree on Aug. 16 and opening at Leake Central on Aug. 23. The Warriors travel to Union on Aug. 30, and then host Cherokee N.C. High School on Sept. 6 in the annual Battle of Nations. West Lauderdale will be a new team on Choctaw Central's schedule. The Knights will come to visit Sept. 13. The Warriors also compete in the tough Region 5-3A.

Union opens its season at Nanih Waiya on Aug. 23. On their non-Region 5-2A schedule, the Yellowjackets tangle with local rivals Choctaw Central, Sebastopol and Leake Central while also taking on Ackerman and Madison St. Joseph.

That prepares them for another run at the region championship. Union competes in the region with Clarkdale, Newton High School, Enterprise, Scott Central and Lake.

Leake Academy opens at Copiah Academy on Aug. 23, and has some tough early games against Washington School (Aug. 30), Simpson on Sept. 13 and new District 2-AA rival Tri-County on Sept. 20. The Rebels fans are well acquainted with the rest of the district schedule which will includes Canton, Manchester, Winston and Oak Hill.


Softball season should be just as interesting.

Neshoba Central will be seeking its second slow-pitch state championship in a row after last year's big year. And Leake Academy will be re-loading as they go for another state crown.

Choctaw Central and Philadelphia will be looking to break out of the tough Region 5-3A league. And look for Union to get back on track in the Class 2A competition as well.

As I said, this is the calm before the storm. It all kicks off next month.

Steve Swogetinsky is the sports editor of The Neshoba Democrat. Reach him at