PINE BELT (WDAM) - For 94 previous football seasons, the circle-it-on-the-calendar game in Hattiesburg and Laurel any year has been when their respective high schools renew their rivalry in the 'Lil Brown Jug' game.
But this year, the longest continuously played prep football rivalry in Mississippi will have the undivided attention of high school football fans statewide after the two schools agreed to move the game to Saturday night.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. for the Class 5A foes at Patrick Stadium in Hattiesburg.
"Coach (Tony) Vance and I, we talked about it last year," Laurel coach Todd Breland said. "It was their idea and I liked it and I jumped on board. Hopefully, we can get a lot of people who don't normally get to see this game see the intensity of it. It's a fun game. If there's people around the state who think that it's lost its luster, they need to come on out."
Laurel leads the series 48-41-5, though Hattiesburg has won the last two meetings, including a wild, 36-32 victory "Between the Bricks" in Laurel last year that saw the Tigers rally from a 32-6 deficit in the final eight minutes of the game.
"I've been involved in a bunch of them, and you can't predict what will happen," Breland said. "I've been on both ends, but like last year. I still can't explain it. It will haunt me for the rest of my career. I don't care if I win five more state championships, I won't forget that game. But at the same time, I've been on the other end of that game. Years ago, we were down 26-0 at the half and came back to beat them. So, it's almost like playing on Halloween. Something crazy can happen."
Both teams come in snorting fire.
Laurel (1-0) dominated Quitman 31-0 with a defense that posted two safeties and limited the Panthers to less than 60 total yards and an offense that scored three times with quarterback Sinclair Ulmer under center for his first game.
Hattiesburg (0-1) dropped a 56-42 shootout to Class 6A Petal, with both teams racing up and down the field.
Quarterback Julian Conner threw for two scores and ran for a third, wide receivers Jordan Murphy and D'andre Humbles topped the 100-yard mark and caught a touchdown each and running back Fabian Franklin ran for more than 100 yards and scored twice.
The Tigers were gashed for big plays defensively, surrendering more than 500 yards total offense, but Vance said he expects a young unit to make strides between the team's first and second games of the season.
"Don't judge us off of one game," Vance said. "We're going to be an exciting team, and we're going to get better, there's no doubt in my mind about. You make the biggest jump between week one and week two, and we'll be better. We've got to do a better job of tackling."
The Tigers also will focus on cleaning up penalties. Hattiesburg was whistled 13 times for 121 yards in negative yardage. Petal was called for four penalties for 25 yards.
With Laurel boasting a strong ground game led by Ty'Quan Ulmer and electric receiver/return man Dontario Drummond, Vance said the Tigers will have their paws full for yet another week.
"We understand that we have a tough schedule, and each and every Friday or Saturday night, we're going to get everybody's 'A' game," Vance said.
For the second, consecutive Saturday, an overflow crowd is expected at Patrick Stadium, but when it comes to the Jug game, that's been par for the course through the decades.
"It's really a humbling rivalry to be a part of, and knowing through the rest of your life that you've been a part of this," Breland said. "They're never going to miss a year of playing. I had actually left Laurel at the time (Hurricane) Katrina came through, but they played that game here with no electricity on a Saturday. It just had to be played for the communities. There's just no way that we cannot not play this game, and that's just a perfect example of how important it is for both communities."