LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - It's been a long season since Hattiesburg beat Laurel 31-20 in week two – 90 days to be exact – and both the Tigers and Golden Tornadoes realize they can throw records and past performances out the window.
"Obviously, the important of it is win or go home," said Laurel head coach Todd Breland. "That's what we're concentrating on. What happened the first of the year, if we had won it or lost it, it doesn't matter. It's not going to help us tomorrow night."
"I feel like we weren't coming with it the first game," said Laurel junior wide receiver Juan Nelson. "But this game, we're coming with it."
Surely, Hattiesburg will be too. A lot more is at stake than just a Lil' Brown Jug this go 'round. But don't think the Tigers bear any significance on their August win over the Golden Tornadoes either.
"Honestly, that doesn't mean anything," said Hattiesburg senior quarterback Julian Conner. "Last year, we beat [Laurel] in the first game and then we lost in the playoffs. So, that doesn't mean anything."
"Even though it's a rivalry, it's probably the friendliest rivalry in the state," said Hattiesburg head coach Tony Vance. "Me and coach Breland are just really good friends. Believe it or not, we both pull for each other every Friday except for when we're playing. But it's going to be a great football game. It's the playoffs, man."
They know the coaches and the players. Having faced one another four times in the last two years, there may not be two schools in Mississippi that know each other better another than Laurel and Hattiesburg do.
Now it's just about laying it all out on the field and seeing who comes away with a berth to the South State Championship.
"I think we're all just ready to play," Breland said. "It's been a long week. It's been a great week of preparation, beautiful weather. Understanding what the magnitude of the game is and what the atmosphere will be like, it's exciting. We're ready to get this thing going."
"Our guys fully understand what's at stake, the finality of it all," Vance said. "Come tomorrow night, it's going to be a really good football team that packs it up for the year. We just got to make sure it's not us."