When the Hattiesburg High and Laurel football teams take the field at 7:30 p.m. Friday, it will mark the continuation of the oldest continuously-played series in Mississippi.
Most commonly referred to as "The Battle for the Little Brown Jug," the rivalry spans generations, as the series began in 1922. Laurel currently holds a 47-38-5 edge, but since 2002, the Tigers and Golden Tornadoes have won five apiece.
Despite having lost some of its luster over the years, the game is one that many in both proud cities still look forward to. The game still gets people fired up, even though the Tigers and Golden Tornadoes are no longer in the same class. Players still want to claim bragging rights for another year, while fans continue to clamor for their favorite team to hang on to the Jug until at least next season. But this year's contest will take on a slightly different feel than those in recent seasons. The last time both squads finished with eight or more wins in the same season was 2007. Hattiesburg head coach Danny Nowell said he anticipates a big crowd at D.I. Patrick Stadium Friday. Last week, the Tigers won 51-22 on the road at Murrah, while the Golden Tornadoes routed South Jones 44-22 at home. "They won big at home (last week). We won big on the road (last week). We're both 1-0," Nowell said. "So I expect a big crowd. We both want to keep the momentum going. "But it's one of those games that's a rival game, and you can kind of throw the record books out." The Little Brown Jug - an old whiskey jug painted with the team names in the appropriate colors and the scores of each year's game - currently resides in Laurel after the Golden Tornadoes won last season's game 26-6. And Laurel head coach Todd Breland would like to be able to keep it that way. "I've seen Hattiesburg for a lot of years," said Breland, who was an assistant at Laurel for several seasons before being named head coach. "I've seen them fast. I've seen them big. But I'll say this: this is one of the better Hattiesburg teams I've seen on film in a long time. They're very aggressive." Key to the Tigers' offense is senior quarterback Jamal Hatten, something Breland is keenly aware of. Last week against Murrah, Hatten was 9-of-11 passing for 130 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 80 yards and a score on six carries. "That kid is good," Breland said. "He makes them go." As Hatten is to Hattiesburg, Virzil Tillman is to Laurel. Tillman is the Golden Tornadoes' starting running back, and against South Jones last week, he ran for 154 yards on eight carries and had three rushing touchdowns. "We're going to have to make sure to stop him," Nowell said of Tillman. "But they've also got good receivers and good quarterback. And they're good up front on both sides of the ball. Overall, though, I feel like we can match up with them. "But we have to execute and make sure that what we work on in practice carries over into the game." Breland said he's also expecting Hattiesburg's best on Friday. "We're going to have our hands full, I know that," he said.