Jackson Public Schools high school football teams Callaway, Murrah, Provine and Jim Hill will renew old rivalries Saturday at a new venue: Pearl High School, across the river in Rankin County.
The City of Jackson water crisis has altered the lives of its citizenry – and also the way Jackson Public Schools football teams play the sport. Callaway and Murrah were originally scheduled to play at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday morning. Instead, they will play at the same time at Ray Rogers Stadium in Pearl. Provine and Jim Hill will follow in the second half of the doubleheader at 3 p.m.
The moves were forced because of the water crisis, which has caused any number of issues, including that the toilets and urinals won’t flush at The Vet. There isn’t enough water pressure.
The agreement to play at Pearl was finalized early Thursday afternoon, less than 48 hours before Murrah and Callaway will kick off.
Neverthless, Thursday’s news was welcome. Murrah coach Marcus Gibson probably spoke for all four coaches when he said, “We want to play and we need to play.”
JPS football has experienced tough sledding in recent years. The 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continued to alter schedules in 2021. The water crisis has just added additional obstacles.
“Our kids have been through so much in the last three years that this delay was not even something they were concerned about,” Gibson said. “They have learned throughout the pandemic to move forward regardless, to not worry about the uncontrollable and to control what they can. They are some of the most resilient people I have ever been around.”
Gibson, who teaches five oral communications classes when he’s not coaching football, is resilient as well. He has to be. Besides COVID and the water crisis, he has the normal football problems every coach faces, including losing his starting quarterback to a foot injury in the Mustangs’ opening game, a 49-45 defeat at the hands of Cleveland Central last week.
“We played well,” Gibson said. “It was a game we could have won and probably should have won.”
The Mustangs suffered in that game with major cramping issues.
“Our kids are in shape, but even so they were cramping as early as the second quarter,” Gibson said.
It wasn’t because of water issues, Gibson said. Murrah parents and local businesses have donated bottled water – and ice – to the team. The Mustangs go through the cases of bottled water rapidly.
“The deal is, because of COVID, they can’t share,” Gibson said. “Once they open the bottle, it’s theirs to finish. A lot of our players bring ice and water from home in their own thermos bottles.”
JPS schools limit football practices to 90 minutes until the weather cools – and 30 minutes of that must be spent indoors.
“It’s hard to get the conditioning we need, so we have to make really good use of the time,” Gibson said.
One of the biggest issues for the football coaches was presented when the schools went to virtual learning because of the water crisis.
“Normally, you have the players at school and they just come on down to the field house for practice when the bell rings,” Gibson said. “Now they are coming from home. Not many of our players have their own cars so they have to catch rides. Some of them are at home babysitting younger siblings, so they can’t leave until a parent gets home. There’s lots of problems you don’t think about until they happen.”