By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
Louisville and football go hand in hand. When pads begin to pop out on Ivy Avenue, all attention turns to the Louisville High School Wildcats.
That certainly is the case this week as LHS heads to Jackson to take on Hazlehurst at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium for the MHSAA Class 3A State Championship. A win there and not only will the Wildcats claim their eighth state championship, but LHS will be second in the state only to mighty South Panola (10) in the number of football state titles.
While LHS quarterback Wyatt Roberts and linebacker Jeremy Sangster were born nearly a dozen years after Louisville won its first state title in 1985, they are fully aware of the importance of bringing home another championship to their school.
“That is what the whole community is about,” Roberts said. “Everybody talks about Friday night football. If you win you are a hero. If you lose, nobody really wants to talk to you. They remember the mistakes, but that’s what it’s all about.”
And what will it be like if the Wildcats do roll back into Louisville on Saturday night with it’s eighth golden football?
“Woo Wee, there aren’t any words to explain it,” said Sangster, a big smile spreading across his face. “Everybody is counting on us, everybody wants us to win it and if we do win it — oh my gosh!”
Seven times a LHS football team has played in a state championship game since the playoffs began in 1981 and seven times the Wildcats have left with the title.
“We have heard about that a bunch,” Roberts said. “It is not necessarily pressure, it’s more of a motivational thing. The fact that Louisville has come here and never been beaten is a great inspiration and gives you a little more confidence in knowing that we have been here as a school and come out with a victory.”
But this team has a chance to do something none of those title teams before them accomplished. They could end the season undefeated.
“At the beginning of the season we said our team will go undefeated and win state,” Sangster said. “But you have to take it one day at a time and a game at a time. And we’ve done that.”
“We talked about that yesterday (Sunday),” Roberts said of going undefeated. “A 16-0 season and a state championship — you can’t beat it. To see that record and to set that milestone would be a great mark for this team and our school.”
While the 2013 Wildcats have a chance to become the first LHS team to post an undefeated season in the playoff era, one other team has run the table since full integration in 1970.
The 1971 team — lead by such Louisville High School legends as Earl Carter, Tim Ellis and Ray Hisaw — went 11-0 and beat Ackerman 29-0 for the Choctaw Conference Championship. That team ended the season ranked No. 3 in the state by the Associated Press.
“I think we could have beaten any of them (ranked ahead of us) if they had given us the chance,” Hisaw said when asked about that season earlier this year.
There is something else a win on Saturday would give Louisville. The Wildcats would be the only team to win at least one state championship in each decade of the playoff era. LHS has won titles in 1985, 1986, 1991, 1993, 1995, 2007 and 2008. The first five were 4A championships, with the last two coming in Class 3A.
“It would mean a lot to the community,” LHS head coach M.C. Miller said of winning a title in every decade. “The Louisville fans expect a lot. I have lived in Louisville all of my life and I know there is a tradition and all I wanted to do was to help keep it going.
“Louisville has always been known for football,” he said. “We are one of the elite schools in the state because of football.”
Miller says he enjoys hearing about the football history of the school, because he knows it is that very history that helps the Wildcats continue to be title contenders.
“I helps with the kids on the football field, it really does,” he said. “The fans are behind you and they will get on the kids as well, to try and make them do right. Everybody here pulls together on Friday nights. We all want the same thing.”
And they hope to get another one of them on Saturday afternoon, when the MHSAA Class 3A State Championship trophy is handed out.