On Saturday, Nov. 16, the Mississippi College Choctaws defeated the Delta State Statesmen in their annual rivalry football game. For the first time since 1993, the Heritage Bell trophy crossed Robinson-Hale field, ringing victory as ecstatic team members carried it home.
The second and final MC Preview Day of the semester preceded the groundbreaking kick-off. Choctaws present and future congregated on the Quad for tailgating before clamoring into Robinson-Hale for football’s final curtain, the grand finale.
And a grand finale it proved to be! One of the best games I’ve seen all season, in my opinion. The Choctaws gave their all to break through the solid Statesmen defense, swooping in to reclaim the ball in interceptions and fumbles before achieving touchdowns with big runs.
On display Saturday was a symbiotic relationship that is necessary and vital to the success of this football team and any other team. The Choctaws are good already, but it’s the encouragement and support of the fans that gets them going. Just as a beautiful, powerful sports car, despite the brilliance and awe-striking ability of its engine, cannot run without gasoline, so the Mississippi College Choctaws cannot achieve their greatness without the aid of the people in the stands.
Aaron Feazelle, SGA President and wide-receiver, said, “The turnout from the students had a direct correlation with our undefeated record at home. They brought great energy every Saturday and we are grateful for them.” He continued, saying the students shared in the cultivation of a new culture for the team.
He’s right. The Choctaws, for the first time since 1988, have an undefeated 5-0 home season. The atmosphere of the stands is a vital outside influence on the success of the team. Under the leadership of Shem McConnell and Sam Kinslow, the Shirtless for Spirit group has flourished into a regular feature of every game, even allowing female students to participate in painted tank-tops.
Furthermore, on Saturday, several members of Kokoa Men’s Service Club carried a speaker with them to the stands and danced to classic funk music to pump up the crowd. Camryn Powell, who serves as president of the newly formed Multicultural Student Association, led the stands in the wave. And at every possible moment, the stands roared in support of their beloved Choctaws. Their enthusiasm flowed from the metal bleachers like a tide, refreshing the team with confidence to encourage each other and fulfill the greatness they knew they were capable of.
From my perch on the sidelines which I have occupied every home game, I have seen the spirit of the team and stands grow and flourish from indifference to passion. My freshman year the stands were sparse, empty; two years later, they’re packed to capacity almost every game. As the football team has improved, so has the quality of the fans. The pride that students have in this football team hasn’t been seen since the days of national championships and conference titles decades ago.
After the Heritage Bell returned to the Choctaws, the team huddled up around it and sent up a prayer, “We’re gonna keep it in our house, in Jesus’s name, Amen.” My message to the Choctaws is this: keep the spirit, keep the enthusiasm, keep the victory. Because with continued passion and with renewed fire, we can keep doing great things.