When Friday’s football games kick off on Friday, two local matchups that will be happening are Jackson Central-Merry at South Side and Liberty Tech at North Side.
Both of these games will pit Jackson-Madison County Schools teams against each other, but they’re playing for a little more than simple bragging rights over a cousin or friend or a former middle school teammate that went to another high school.
They’re playing for the sixth edition of the Commissioners’ Cup.
“I like this because it’s something else for us to play for,” said North Side head coach Woodrow Lowe Jr. “When we talk about goals for the team before the season starts, winning the Commissioners’ Cup is one of those goals along with winning the region, making the playoffs and winning state.”
Other coaches discussed in preseason how the Commissioners’ Cup adds to the regular season for their teams as well.
“We’re in an eight-team region, which means we have seven region games and three non-region games,” said JCM head coach Erit Turner. “Those three non-region games are all Commissioners’ Cup games.
“So every game in the regular season is like a playoff game for us because there’s literally something we’re playing for every week, and that’s a good thing for us.”
The Cougars got off to a good start last week with a 31-0 at Liberty, which puts them first in the Commissioners’ Cup standings going into Friday’s games. A win over South Side this week would put the Cougars a game away from sweeping their way to the Cup in their first season competing for it.
South Side head coach Lester Narcisse is coaching in the Cup for the first time, but he likes the energy playing for the trophy can garner from his players.
“As you go through the course of the season, week after week, you hopefully don’t need a lot to motivate you to play your best, but every motivation helps,” Narcisse said. “And I imagine this just adds to the natural bragging rights you have playing against your city neighbors.”
Liberty head coach Scott Akin and the Crusaders will actually know their fate in this year’s Commissioners’ Cup by the end of next week as they had JCM in Week 1, North Side this week and will play South Side next Thursday. But they’re in a similar situation to JCM when it comes to their schedule and playing in a big region.
“We’ve got some good teams in our region like Covington and Westview,” Akin said. “But having the first three games against the other teams here in Jackson is a great way for us to get our season started.”
The Commissioners’ Cup started in 2018 by JMCSS public communications director Greg Hammond, but at the time he was still teaching broadcasting at South Side.
The idea for the Cup started with regular walks by the trophy case at South Side after lunch.
“We’ve got this big trophy case there, and there were some older trophies from bowl games and conferences that are no longer around, and I’d hear stories from some of the older guys about playing in these matchups and winning these trophies,” Hammond said. “And it got me to thinking about how there are very few trophies around like that for student-athletes these days to play for.”
That thinking along with Hammond’s attempt to enter the local political arena caused him to think about multiple purposes for the Cup.
“I ran for County Commission in 2018, and it opened my eyes to how many people aren’t aware of who their commissioners are, how the commission works, how important the commission is and even what it is,” Hammond said. “So as I was dreaming up this proposal for a trophy to play for, I wanted to try to bring an educational factor in there as well.”
So when the Cup is mentioned over public address systems at games or when it’s mentioned in local media stories, the County Commission is mentioned and its role in life for citizens of the county.
Hammond also has tried to get local first responder agencies involved by trying specific agencies to each school.
Jackson Police is attached to North Side. Madison County Fire and South Side are linked up. So they’ve gotten to be involved in the bragging rights as North Side won the Cup the first three years and South Side has won it the last two.
“We’re just trying to use this as a way to bring the community together and link different parts of society here in Jackson and Madison County together,” Hammond said.
JCM is the only team of the four that started with a win last week. Lowe said his Indians have responded well in practice to bouncing back from the loss.
“We’re ready to get back to it and hopefully play better, and playing for this Cup adds to our motivation for that this week,” Lowe said.
Brandon Shields, firstname.lastname@example.org