The Meridian Star
The Mississippi Association of Independent Schools announced its schedules on Wednesday and for four area schools the first opportunity to look into next season has officially arrived.
For Lamar head coach Mac Barnes, the biggest change in Raiders’ move to 3A this season will be the seven district games Lamar will play compared to the three they played while in 2A last year. Lamar’s district schedule includes East Rankin Academy (home) Sept. 6; Jackson Prep (home) Sept. 13; Copiah Academy (away) Sept. 27; Columbia Academy (home) Oct. 4; Presbyterian Christian Academy (away) Oct. 18 and Oak Forrest (away) Nov. 8.
“Last year when we only had three division games, we had to find a whole bunch of other games,” Barnes said. “We only had three games that really counted. Now we have seven games in our division that count, so I like that better. Of course 3A has some bigger schools in it, but I’m telling you, the years we spent in 2A, there were some mighty good teams there too.”
Even with the Lamar’s step up to 3A, Barnes has compiled a challenging non-district schedule for the Raiders. Lamar will play five non-district games including Starkville Academy (home) Aug. 23 ; Winston Academy (away) Aug. 30; Northeast Lauderdale (home) Sept. 20; Simpson Academy (away) Oct. 11 and Russell Christian Academy (home) Oct. 25.
Barnes said he is excited to play host to two local teams in Northeast and Russell Christian, and said the games should provide a big crowd and an exciting atmosphere for the players.
“We played Enterprise the last two years, and each time we played Enterprise, that was the largest crowd we played in front of,” Barnes said. “It was one of the largest gates in the history of Lamar when we played Enterprise last year.
“I think there will be some excitement in both situations, with Russell winning state championship coming out of the 8-man league and Northeast Lauderdale being a larger public school. I think there is some excitement there.”
Barnes said he was also glad to keep rival 2A Simpson Academy back on the schedule again after making the move up to 3A.
“Our Simpson game has developed into a rivalry,” Barnes said. “I’m glad we are playing Simpson again, they have really been tough, and they are very good program.”
Newton County Academy
While Newton County Academy will not have their usual games against Lamar and Leake Academy for the 2013 season, the Generals are still set for a competitive slate next year, as they schedule six non-district games including Wayne Academy (home) Aug. 23; Park Place Academy (away) Aug. 30; Porter’s Chapel Academy (away) Sept. 6; Canton Academy (home) Sept. 13; Oak Hill Academy (home) Sept. 20 and Immanuel Academy (away) Oct. 18.
“We are not playing Lamar or Leake this year,” NCA head coach Robert Roberts said. “With school’s their size, we really can’t compete with them. We have an easier schedule, but I’m still playing Wayne, Canton, Oak Hill and Park Place which are all 4A schools.”
Roberts said the difficult non-district schedule helps prepare his team for both district play as well as playing in the postseason. This year the Generals will play four district games including Sylva-Bay Academy (away) Sept. 27; Central Holmes Academy (home) Oct. 4; Heidelberg Academy (home) Oct. 11 and Benton Academy (away) Oct. 25.
“Last we played the bigger schools, and our district was easier,” Roberts said. “The 2A schools are a lot bigger and get us prepared for a good game.”
The MAIS 8-man league has changed in format from recent year. Instead of dividing the league into a north and south division, 8-man will now have four divisions with the top two teams in each division earning a spot in the playoffs.
Kemper Academy will have to overcome a tough district next year, as the Rams are grouped in the same division as state runner up Calhoun Academy as well as an improved Hebron Christian Academy, Central Academy and former 1A 11-man Strider Academy. Kemper Academy will play Hebron Christian on the road Oct. 11; Calhoun at home Oct. 17; Strider on the road Oct. 25 and Central at home on Nov. 1.
“Hebron is going to be pretty tough from what I saw last year,” Kemper Academy head coach Pete McCleskey said. “They have a good bunch of kids there.”
The Rams will be tested out of district as well, as they play six non-district games including Sharkey-Issaquena (away) Aug. 23; Calvary Christian (home) Aug. 30; Humphrey’s Academy (home) Sept. 6; Central Academy (away) Sept. 13; Clinton Christian Academy (home) Sept. 20 and Veritas Academy (home) Sept. 27.
“We are getting to play a couple of people we haven’t seen before,” McCleskey said. “I don’t know what everybody has coming back this year, but I feel like we have a good shot at it.”