By Brad Crowe
Fears of seeing the end of a 98-year streak of rivalry games between the Laurel Tornadoes and the Hattiesburg Tigers were relieved Wednesday afternoon with the announcement that the two schools have managed to reschedule the contest into the recently shortened 2020 MHSAA football season.
Soon after the MHSAA’s announcement on Tuesday that the season’s start would be delayed by two weeks, many throughout the area began inquiring about the status of the 99th “Battle for the Lil’ Brown Jug,” which was originally scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 29.
Laurel head football coach Ryan Earnest and Hattiesburg head coach Tony Vance said they had already contemplated how the game could be preserved if the situation arose. The two worked together to find a solution and save the longest continually played rival game in the state of Mississippi.
“When I heard we may miss these first two games, I was probably the first one to jump on the phone with Coach Earnest and say, ‘Hey we have to find a way to keep this thing going man for both communities,’” Vance told reporters. “Because it’s that important for both communities. Definitely one of the greatest rivals in the state of Mississippi.”
As a result of their effort, Hattiesburg will now host Laurel at D.I. Patrick Stadium during the new opening week of the regular season. It is still to be determined whether the game will be played on Friday, Sept. 4, or Saturday, Sept. 5.
Both teams sacrificed bye weeks while Laurel’s contest against Wayne County has been moved to Friday, Sept. 18.
“Really want to thank the administration over at Wayne County for being so cooperative,” Earnest said. “I want to tip my hat to Coach Vance. He did a lot of work helping me out. This rivalry is something very special. It survived Hurricane Camille, it survived Hurricane Katrina, it even survived World War II. So, it was really, really important to us and really important to our two communities that we were able to get this game in and we’re both really excited that we get to continue this rivalry.”
The Tornadoes currently lead the all-time series 49-44-5, having reclaimed the Jug last season with a 35-19 win at home Between the Bricks.