Spotlight on: Jackson Prep Patriots
Hometown: Jackson, Mississippi
Group: MPSA AAA
By Ryan Rohde
On September 7, 2007, Ricky Black and his entire Jackson Prep football team knew that their 24-0 victory over Newton County wasn’t just another win.
It was historic.
Up until last season, the Mississippi Private School Association and the Mississippi High School Athletic Association did not permit teams to play against each other due to long-standing rules.
But, after years of tradition, the MHSAA finally approved the scheduling of MPSA teams.
Then on that Friday night last September, Newton County and Jackson Prep opened a new chapter in the Mississippi high school football history books.
It didn’t matter which team won the game, although Jackson Prep’s shutout certainly opened some eyes to the quality of play in the MPSA. Rather, it just mattered that they played.
And as many schools in the rival athletic association have noticed quite quickly, Jackson Prep happens to be an elite football team.
Located just off I-55, Jackson is the largest private school in the state, housing more than 500 students in the high school.
Athletic championships have been a staple of the Patriots athletic program, and not just for football.
The swim team has won 34-straight state championships, girls’ soccer has 10 state titles of their own, and just last year alone, softball, golf, boys’ and girls’ tennis, and the baseball team all captured state titles.
The football team has carried their weight, too. Since 1970, the football team has won 11 MPSA state titles, including the past two seasons. But there was still something missing from the record books of the Patriots and all other MPSA schools -- a win over an MHSAA team.
Jackson Prep rode the momentum of that historic win all the way to an undefeated season and the team’s second-straight MPSA title over archrival Jackson Academy. The rivalry has grown with each passing season and will likely only become stronger after the 17-10 overtime thriller in the championship game.
“I cannot imagine a football season without Jackson Prep on our schedule; I absolutely cannot,” said Peter Jernberg, president of Jackson Academy, in a recent YallvsUs.com feature article. “There would be a void in life and a void in our school year.”
It is evident that this rivalry will never fade, and perhaps it shouldn’t, as the chance for Jackson and similar schools to play against the MHSAA schools offers an opportunity for newer rivalries to evolve.
This season, Newton County exacted revenge on the Patriots with a 31-26 win.
Meanwhile, Jackson Prep is already off to a great start in ‘08. The Patriots are 8-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in the MPSA polls.
But while the MPSA and MHSAA games are still few are far between, one can only hope that the recent changes will stay alive and give life to new rivalries in the generations to come.
Check for Ryan's High School Spotlight each week at FootballPower.tv.