Death. Taxes. The Lil’ Brown Jug Game. Those three things have been a constant in South Mississippi over the last 98 years. COVID-19 made the 99th Jug game anything but certain.
The MHSAA announced in late July that the 2020 football season was pushed back two weeks, and the first two games canceled. The Lil’ Brown Jug game was among the many games across the state that were canceled due to the delayed season.
“The first thing I did when I heard the news [about the schedule change] was call Ryan Earnest over at Laurel to try and figure out how to play The Jug Game,” Hattiesburg Head Coach and Athletic Director Tony Vance said.
A little scheduling luck and cooperation from Wayne County helped the Tigers and Tornadoes play the longest-running rivalry game in the state. The Tigers had week three open, while Laurel had Wayne County on the schedule. However, both Laurel and Wayne County had week six open and agreed to move the meeting to September 18th.
“Kudos to Coach Gandy over at Wayne County for helping us get the Jug Game played this year,” Vance said. ” It just goes to show just how important this game is, even to folks outside of Hattiesburg and Laurel.”
Before last years loss at Laurel, Hattiesburg had won five straight, but the Tigers are looking to bring the Jug back to the Hub City this season.
Hattiesburg returns a lot of depth and experience this year, which they didn’t have last season while finishing 4-7 and missing the playoffs for the first time in Vance’s head coaching career.
“We’re going to hang our hat on our defense this year,” Vance said. “Most of our starters from last season are back and have a year of experience under their belt.”
The Tigers secondary looks to be the strongest unit on the team. Seniors Walt Thompson, Camrun Norman, Chanse Duckworth, and Jaquez Andrews highlight a secondary that locked down opponent’s passing games last season as they forced 7 interceptions last season.
You’ll see a couple of those guys on the offensive side of the ball as well. Jaquez Andrews, who perhaps might be the best athlete on the team, will be running the ball this season too.
“We’re going to run the ball as much as we can like we always have,” Vance said. “Jaquez showed us some really good things towards the end of last season running the ball, so he will definitely be one of the guys we use to run the ball this year.”
Laurel is coming off a 10-3 season in which they lost in the second round of the playoffs. The Tornadoes return most of their explosive playmakers. Dandy Dozen receiver and Tulane commit Kenarius Johnson had 42 catches for over 700 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Xavier Evans, who is switching from quarterback to running back this season, accounted for 3,000 total yards last season.
“You are not going to completely shut down guys like that. You are crazy to think that you will. You just try to slow them down and minimize the damage they do to you and minimize the big plays. They are going to make big plays because they are playmakers. It is what it is. We have had guys like that in the past,” Vance said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm at D.I. Patrick Stadium. You can watch live here on hattiesburgtigers.com. For more information on how to watch, visit here.