SEMINARY, Miss. (WDAM) _ The one plays in a region whose members half-kiddingly call “The SEC West” of Mississippi Class 3A football.
The other plays in a football minefield known as the Class 2A South, where navigating the postseason often goes from frying pan to fire to inferno.
And yet, come 7 p.m. Friday, two of the Pine Belt’s sturdiest programs, Collins and Seminary high schools, will open the 2019 football season by renewing their nearby rivalry.
“Seminary‘s a good team” Collins coach Eric Booth said. “We’ve been playing them for a while, and there always a good team, well-coached. But I want to play good teams, tough teams, to get us ready for our (region) games and Class 2A.
“Class 2A, it’s tough, but we’re going to play with a lot of heart every year. We’re going to compete.”
Collins has competed well the past two years, posting 24 victories under Booth. In 2018, the Tigers went 11-2, falling to Taylorsville in the South State playoffs in an oddly-early quarterfinals game that pitted a pair of No. 1 seeds against one another.
Seminary turned in one of the best seasons in the school’s football history, capturing a Region 8-3A crown before making a run to the Class 3A state championship game.
“We had a good spring and we’ve had a good offseason,” Seminary coach Brian Rials said. “Our goal, just like everybody’s, is to get back to (the championship game) again this year.”
Rials said the rivalry game between communities that are centered less than eight miles from one another will tell a lot where the Bulldogs are and where they need to go.”
“We lost some really good players from last year,” Rials said. “(Defensive tackle) Nathan Pickering’s at Mississippi State now, and it’s hard to replace a kid like that. It’s going to take several guys stepping up to fill those big shoes.
“We lost four out of our five starting offense linemen, so we’ve had some work to do there.”
The Bulldogs also will have to replace 2,000-yard rusher Marquis Crosby, who transferred. Seminary does welcome back Jordan Barrett, who ran for 1,258 yards and 14 scores in 2018.
If Collins has an edge coming in, it comes in the form of senior quarterback Hershey McLaurin, who is starting his fourth season. Too boot, the Tigers return the bulk of their offensive and defensive lines.
“I feel good about the offensive and defensive side of the ball,” Booth said. “We’ve got three linemen who have played for me three years in a row. I’ve got a quarterback who I’m playing for a fourth year in a row. When I turn around on defense, the same kids playing are playing on the line, and I’ve got a four-year starter at cornerback.
“Those guys, four years ago, had no idea what the calls were or anything. Now, they’re the ones calling out the plays, knowing what (everyone) is doing without even having to turn around.”