Long Beach and Pass Christian neighbor each other but have not played on the gridiron in a decade.
That changes Thursday night with the creation of what the two schools are hoping revives an old-time football rivalry.
At 7 p.m. in Pass Christian the Pirates and Bearcats will clash in a game that has been dubbed the “Coast Kickoff Classic.”
As the official start to the football season in South Mississippi, PCHS coach Casey Wittmann and LBHS coach Forrest Williams expect the game to be a treat for the Coast community.
“We wanted to start a new tradition. We get to be the only game in town that night,” Wittman said. “It’s fun for the kids and communities.”
Williams said the two schools have played jamborees for a while now so it only made sense to make it a real game. And the fact the showdown is on a Thursday night only adds to the rivalry’s spotlight.
“We have a lot of football fans all the way from Waveland to Pascagoula,” Williams said, pointing to building excitement around the start of both the NFL and college football seasons. “Mississippi is a football state and we know a lot of folks want to get their fix on.”
As part of the pre-game festivities, Long Beach Mayor George Bass and Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott will participate in the coin toss.
Long Beach will host next year’s rivalry contest, also on the first Thursday of the season.
“If you love football and you love rivalries, you’ll watch two teams with a lot of spirit get after each other,” Wittman said of the renewed rivalry game. “It’ll set the tone for a great Friday night.”
Long Beach: Long Beach has a senior-heavy team and returns experience at several key positions. Williams is optimistic the team’s improved dedication this offseason will help the Bearcats get over last year’s three-win mark.
“You work nine months out of the year to play for three,” he said. “Now we’re ready to see the results.”
Pass Christian: The Pirates have continued to make progress under Wittmann, edging their way into the playoffs a year ago after narrowly missing out in 2015. Wittmann expects his Pirates to build off last year’s improvement.
“It has taken a while. We had to get the culture changed, but I like our team,” Wittman said. “I like where we’re going.”