The Jackson, Callaway, Murrah, Provine and Jim Hill Public Schools high school football teams will renew old rivalries Saturday at a new venue: Pearl High School, across the river in Rankin County.
The City of Jackson’s water crisis has upended the lives of its citizens, as well as the way the 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 due to the water crisis, which has caused a number of problems, including toilets and urinals not working at The Vet. There is not enough water pressure.
The deal to play at the Pearl was finalized Thursday afternoon, less than 48 hours before Murrah and Callaway start.
However, Thursday’s news was welcome. Murrah’s 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 a rough ride in recent years. The 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which continued to disrupt schedules in 2021. The water crisis just added additional hurdles.
“Our kids have been through so much in the last three years that this delay wasn’t even something they were worried about,” Gibson said. “They have learned throughout the pandemic to keep going despite everything, not to worry about the uncontrollable and to control what they can. They are some of the most resilient people I’ve ever been with.”
Gibson, who teaches five oral communication classes when he’s not coaching football, is also resilient. He has to be. In addition to COVID and the water crisis, he has the normal football issues every coach faces, including losing his starting quarterback to a foot injury in the Mustangs’ opening game, a 49-45 loss to hands of the Cleveland Central last week.
“We played well,” Gibson said. “It was a match we could have won and probably should have won.”
The Mustangs suffered in that game with major cramp issues.
“Our kids are fit, but they still had cramps from the second trimester,” Gibson said.
It wasn’t because of water problems, Gibson said. Murrah’s parents and local businesses have donated bottled water and ice to the team. The Mustangs quickly go through the cases of bottled water.
“The deal is because of COVID, they can’t share,” Gibson said. “Once they open the bottle, it’s theirs to finish. Many of our players bring ice and water from home in their own thermos.”
JPS schools limit soccer practices to 90 minutes until the weather turns cold, and 30 minutes of that must be spent indoors.
“It’s hard to get the conditioning that we need, so we have to make the most of our time,” Gibson said.
One of the biggest problems for soccer coaches came when schools switched to virtual learning due to the water crisis.
“Normally, you have the players at school and they just go down to the field house to practice when the bell rings,” Gibson said. “Now they come from home. Not many of our players have their own cars, so they have to take rides. Some of them are at home taking care of their younger siblings, so they can’t leave until one of the parents comes home. There are a lot of problems you don’t think about until they happen.”
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