By Tim Ward
One of the first things looked at once a football schedule is released is the date for homecoming. This is true for high school, college and now some middle schools. This gives alumni the opportunity to come home to rekindle what should be fond memories at their respective institutions.
Not wanting to put a damper on the party, the football team usually plays an opponent they can beat. With all that in mind, Jim Hill and Murrah alumni were wondering how Northwest Rankin and Clinton were chosen respectively as opponents for homecoming.
This high school football season has been somewhat of an anomaly. Murrah and Jim Hill both have winning records halfway into their season and both are ahead of Clinton and Northwest Rankin in their district. Now, looking on the schedule and seeing Northwest Rankin with a record of 2 & 4 and Clinton with a record of 1 & 5, fans from both schools felt pretty good.
Especially with Murrah. Why? A week ago, they gave Madison Central everything they could handle before losing by 5 in the jungle. Add that to the fact that Jim Hill beat Clinton in Clinton the same way in the same week. This appears to be a “lock.” Well, that’s why they play the games on the field instead of on paper.
Murrah jumped out to a touchdown lead. That’s when Clinton woke up. By halftime, the Arrows had stormed back to take a 10 to 7 lead. Murrah fans felt a little unsettled because Clinton came to play. They ganged tackled Malik Dear and pressured quarterback Vonnie Holiday as much as they could.
That strategy produced two turnovers for the Arrows’ defense. They took a fumble and raced down the field for a touchdown in the third quarter and later in the quarter added a one handed touchdown reception by Khalil Finch on a pass from Cale Luke. Murrah’s high power offense struck back.
Murrah scored 19 points in the second half but ultimately fell in defeat to Clinton 31 to 26. Murrah fans were shocked and the football team was rocked. Clinton celebrated their second victory of the season like it was a playoff victory.
Across town at Hughes Field, Jim Hill was battling with Northwest Rankin. Both teams played sloppy in the first half. The Tigers managed to lead 3 to 0 at the half. There were some fireworks at the end of the half. Head coach Pete Hurt was livid with the referees after they took away a Northwest Rankin touchdown.
Here’s what happened. Jim Hill was attempting a field goal that was blocked; the Cougars picked up the ball and ran straight to the endzone. However, the refs had already blown the ball dead, meaning the play was over.
Northwest Rankin felt it was an inadvertent whistle but the refs said ‘no’ because you cannot advance a blocked field goal attempt in high school. Hurt wasn’t hearing the explanation. He was livid. The refs spent about five minutes explaining the situation, but it was null and void.
Jim Hill not only celebrated homecoming, but it is the school’s 100 year anniversary. They had alumni from different ages in attendance. Also, for the halftime entertainment, the alumni Tigerretes performed. Class members from 1981 to the present performed showing they still had ‘it.’
As the field cleared from halftime participants, the teams trotted back out. Hurt still was not happy. Early in the third quarter, the Cougars caught the Tigers “cat napping” and scored a touchdown. This one was not overturned. Seven to 3 Northwest Rankin.
Jim Hill fans still upbeat. Many had just returned from the concession stand. Jim Hill’s offense could not sustain a scoring drive the rest of the night. Turnovers crippled them. Bad play execution killed them.
Northwest Rankin would get the Tigers for a safety in the fourth quarter, making the score 9 to 3. That would be the final score. Jim Hill, a team that beat Clinton one week ago, could not once get into the endzone.
No one wants to be scheduled as your homecoming opponent. Although you must pick someone, the opposing team takes it as a sign of disrespect. More importantly, Murrah and Jim Hill both lost an opportunity to put a stranglehold on a playoff spot while eliminating two traditionally good football programs.
Did the pressure of winning get to them? Murrah was supposed to be good, they were picked by many to be a good team. Jim Hill on the other hand people would say, they haven’t played anyone hard enough yet.
Both schools lost their homecoming, but it could be the final mental piece needed to get the edge back to strive for a playoff spot. This week will show how well the teams can respond.
Jim Hill travels to Greenville, and Murrah will host Warren Central.