The 38th meeting of the Heritage Bell Classic will take place thus Saturday night at Roberson-Hale Stadium. The Mississippi College Choctaws and the Delta State Statesmen have been battling it out since 1935, and Okra currently have a 20-15-2 all-time series lead on the Choctaws. Although MC has been unsuccessful as of late, the players of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90 have a fond memory of the Rivalry. These alumni are excited that the rivalry is back since MC rejoined the GSC in 2014, and believe it will once again be a prodigious rivalry.
Mississippi College Dean of Students, Dr. Turcotte is one of those alumni who is excited the Choctaws and Okra are competing again. Dr. Turcotte was the placekicker for MC during the late 70’s and early 80’s. “Well I am very excited about having the rivalry back I’ve never really lost my competition and competitive nature. I am trying to get students to feel it too, but when we first started a few years ago I was going on about it and the students were like what is this guy talking about… Delta State… They don’t really have an understanding yet how deeply those of us who were athletes back a long time ago felt about this rivalry” Turcotte said.
Dr. Turcotte had some great memories of his playing days against Delta State, but two of them were better than the rest. “But I will never forget in 1982 we were playing at Delta State and one of my best friends Major Everett who was the running back on the team; who later went on to play pro football” said Turcotte. “He came off the field and they radioed down into coach and said Major is about to set an NCAA record put him back in. He went back in he rushed for around 340 yards in one game” Turcotte said.
“The other memory was when I was a senior; I was the student government president of Mississippi College and the placekicker on the football team” said Turcotte. “We played Delta State here at Mississippi College, and I hired a sky diver to put on our mascot uniform and dive out of an airplane and parachute into the middle of the football field at the beginning of the game to fire up the crowd. He ran into a tepee and changed with the real mascot. We ended up winning that game.” Turcotte said.
Athletic Director Mike Jones said the rivalry is a well-respected rivalry, and that it means a whole lot for the state of Mississippi and both of the athletic departments. “The renewal of it is great for athletics, the state and for both of our schools” Jones said. “You don’t have to tell the kids, they understand it is an instate game; 2 hours away. They are a very good athletic program, and we are trying to get back to be just like they are.”
After Mississippi College rejoined division two in 2014, all of the “old” alumni were ecstatic to bring the Heritage Bell Classic back. “The biggest thing that I’ve heard when we came back from division two was to beat Delta State! That was pretty neat, that was the first thing that all the alum said” Jones said. “All of the former players in the 70’s and 80’s have come back and they are involved. Of course they knew what that rivalry meant. I know when I was here during the 80’s coach Williams always said this is Delta State week, so it meant a great deal to us” said Jones.
Choctaws Men’s Head Basketball Coach Don Lofton played football for MC during the 70’s and he believes the rivalry will eventually gain the interest it once had. “When we were division two before it was a huge rivalry. I think now since we’ve gone back from division 3 to division 2 I think over time the rivalry will come back, and the interest from the fans will come back” Lofton said. “Over time the rivalry will be huge again. We need that, it is healthy for Mississippi College athletics. Coaches and players always look forward to playing big games. You want to coach in big games, and you want to play in big games” said Lofton.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s is was THE BIG GAME, as the Choctaws prepared for the Statesmen all year said Turcotte. “Well it’s personally because when I was a student they were our number one rival, and we prepared for them all year. It did not matter what kind of season we were having it was possible for one great team to lose to a not so great team in any given year. I did not really care if we won another game the whole year as long as we beat Delta State. It was a traditional rivalry. On the field, it was very rough and intense” said Turcotte.
Mike Jones is a happy man whenever any Choctaws team beats Delta State, and he believes that a win like this could turn the football season around. “It would be great for our football program, anytime you beat Delta State it is great for your program. Anytime you beat Delta State in anything, as an athletic director it is a great moment for me” Jones said.
The Rivalry with Delta State is not just on the playing field but the recruiting field, coach Lofton says beating Delta State helps recruiting. “In terms of recruiting it think it is huge, and in college athletics is comes down to players. Beating Delta State will gain the respect back that we need in the athletic program” said Lofton.
The Choctaws look to beat the Okra for the first time since 1993 Saturday night. MC has lost the last 5 meetings (Did not play from 1996-2013). But there is no better way to turn the season around than beating the 13th ranked Delta State Statesman at home. Go Choctaws!