JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi high school football fans are treated annually to some of the best and most unique rivalries in the country. Where else can you see rivalry games played for a golden chicken, a toothpick and a little brown jug?
Here’s a look at 15 of the Magnolia State’s best rivalries and what makes them special.
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TOP 15 RIVALRIES IN MISSISSIPPI
This Rankin County rivalry really could be a three-way affair if we included Northwest Rankin, but the Brandon-Pearl game has special significance each season. The series, known colloquially as the “Eat Dirt” game, features two Class 6A schools separated by just 10 miles. On top of being a rivalry game, the two powerhouse programs usually meet with a lot on the line. Like most good series, the game takes place on the last week of the regular season. The Pirates made the Bulldogs eat dirt last year, winning 15-7.
This one could also be expanded to include Madison-Ridgeland Academy, but long before the Patriots were major players, these two schools have been in an arms race that dates back to the 1970s. Jackson Prep has won an amazing 25 state titles, and Jackson Academy is second with nine. Prep has won seven-straight in the series.
No list of Mississippi high school rivalries would be complete without the Little Brown Jug game, which turns 100 years old this season. Laurel and Hattiesburg are two schools separated by 33 miles in South Mississippi’s Pine Belt region. For decades, the duo were the only superpowers in the area. The Tigers got the best of the Tornadoes last year in Hattiesburg, but Laurel will be looking for revenge between the bricks come Nov. 5.
Super Bowl Sunday ought to be a national holiday, but the “Simpson County Super Bowl” is just as special for the folks on Highway 49. It’s hard to describe how much this game means to football fans in the area. The 98th game in the series was canceled last year due to Covid-19 protocols, but resumed this year, with Mendenhall waxing Magee 31-0 back on Sept. 3.
Talk about two schools that compete against each other with a chip on their shoulder — these two have been at it for over a century. The all-Region 4-6A matchup dates back to 1908, making it one of the longest-standing rivalries in Mississippi. It has been fairly even over the years, but Gulfport has dominated the last decade. If the Admirals win on Nov. 5, it will make 10 wins in a row.
The “Crosstown Classic” is one of the younger rivalries on our list, but still dates back 50 years. Separated by just 2.3 miles, the two high schools in one of Mississippi’s premier college towns have developed a love-hate relationship that is more sibling rivalry than brotherly love. Oxford had won four-straight in the series before the Commodores anchored down and handed the Chargers a 34-23 loss on Sept. 17.
Pearl River County is big enough for both of these great programs, which compete for state South State in their respective classes more often than not. The series has had stops and starts due to reclassification, but the atmosphere is always electric when these two schools get together, regardless of the sport. Picayune got the best of Poplarville in the season opener this year, 21-13.
This rivalry between the two Region 3-6A foes separated by just 17 miles has only grown in recent years and extends far past the gridiron. The two 6A heavyweights in the Hattiesburg metro area have developed a healthy distaste for each other thanks to a back-and-forth series. Oak Grove walloped the Panthers 48-14 on Oct. 1 for its second-straight win in the series, but Petal had won three out of four before that.
This rivalry has been heated over the years, and they often meet with more than bragging rights on the line. Wayne County defeated West Jones to win South State in 2003 and 2005, and knocked them out of the playoffs in the third round of the 4A Playoffs in 2009. The War Eagles dominated the series for a while, but the reigning 5A Champion Mustangs have won in each of the last two meetings.
Forest and Morton have been playing football for more than 85 years, and exchange a golden chicken trophy to the regular-season winner. Morton had lost four-straight in the series, but exorcized some demons and took out its frustration with a 41-13 win over the Bearcats last season.
McComb and Brookhaven have been playing each other since 1920, and were long-time district rivals until they were separated by reclassification. Still, playing the “Battle of Highway 51” is worth it just for the bragging rights. The Panthers beat the Tigers 18-8 on Sept. 17 to win their fifth in a row.
The “Little Egg Bowl” has mirrored the intensity of its namesake on the gridiron when these Region 2-6A rivals lock horns each year, mostly because there’s usually so much on the line for both perennial North State contenders. The rivalry hit its hay day when future NFL receivers A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf went head to head in 2015, but it hasn’t lost its luster in recent years. They’ll renew the rivalry this year on Oct. 22 in Starkville.
If you take Confederate Avenue, only a 5.5-mile stretch separates the two schools, and in this case, familiarity breeds contempt. The series was more competitive in the past, but Warren Central squeaked out a 7-6 win at Vicksburg earlier this year to run its streak to 10-straight.
The “Toothpick Bowl” features two programs that pride themselves on fielding stellar defenses, making this game intriguing each and every year. Noxubee County had dominated the series since 2014, beating Louisville six out of seven times, including the 2017 North State Championship. But the Wildcats finally got their revenge on Sept. 24, when they whipped the Tigers 42-6.
This one is probably the youngest rivalry on our list, but it’s a good one between two schools separated by just 8.8 miles on Highway 49. The two teams have met every year since 2001, with Yazoo City winning the first 11 meetings and Yazoo County taking the last eight, including a 12-6 win earlier this year on Sept. 10.