Three years after their rivalry was put on a two-year hiatus, the Philadelphia Tornadoes and the Rockets of Neshoba Central will finally meet when they face off Friday evening. Separated by only one and a half miles, the schools carry a cross-town rivalry that's one of east Mississippi's most fun and most intense.
"We're here in the same town. We're right here together," says Head Coach Teddy Dyess. "A lot of families involved in this. Ya know, there's a lot of talking back and forth during the week and that's what makes it that much more exciting."
"People get into it all around town. Even at the barber shop, man... grocery store... everywhere " says Neshoba Central lineman John Brewer. "And when you go out there, you just gotta play your all for bragging rights around this town. If you don't, they get to talk about you for a year."
The rivalry was put on pause two years ago. Leading up to their 2010 meeting, eight former rockets were among those arrested for allegedly vandalizing a residence while Philadelphia was sanctioned by the state athletic association after players ran on the field during a half-time performance from the Neshoba Central band. Seventeen days after the Tornadoes' 42-14 victory, the Neshoba County school district decided to stop sporting events between the rivals for two years.
These days, it's evident both schools just want to play football.
"We've had a very business-like approach to practice this week, and I've been real happy with that," says Coach Dyess. "We've practiced really good, and I've been really pleased. If we lose the game, we're not going to be two and two. If we win it, we're not going to be 4-0. It's one game. It's not two or three games rolled into one. It's just one game, you know... any way you want to cut it."
Neshoba offensive tackle John brewer is one of only three rockets on today's roster who were on the team that lost three years ago.
"Just thinking about that guy that's going to be in front of you... because you know him, you're going to be thinking how you're gonna take that man out. And you're screaming, you're yelling, you're getting onto your teammates backs, telling them to get ready to go... you know, it's no joke."