The Calhoun Academy Cougars will attempt to win the school’s first state championship in football when they face Russell Christian Friday at 10 a.m. at Mississippi College in Clinton.
The Cougars, 11-1, will leave the school at 1 p.m. Thursday and practice that evening at Richland High School. The team, and many of their fans, will be staying at a Hampton Inn in the Jackson area.
Fans interested in riding a charter bus to the game Friday morning can call Janice Storment at 412-2084 to reserve a seat for $15. The bus will leave at 6:30 a.m. Friday.
Admission for the game is $10 and the Cougars will be on the visitor side of the field.
Calhoun Academy Headmaster Kevin Chrestman said the Cougars’ success has brought a new spirit of excitement to the campus.
“It’s exciting for all of us without question,” Chrestman said. “It’s really helped us build a community spirit here. We see more people getting involved, supporting these kids, not just monetarily but with their words.”
“We’re just all so happy for these kids. They’ve worked so hard,” Chrestman said. “It’s fun to be a part of something like this. No matter what level of competition you’re in, your goal is to get to the final and we’re there.”
Gerry Winters, who led the team to its first playoff appearance last year, had to step down at the beginning of the season as head coach due to health problems. That hasn’t stopped him from being on the sidelines for most every game and taking great pride in the team’s accomplishments.
“We set a goal last year to make the playoffs and we made it there,” Winters said. “We didn’t stay long, but this team learned how to win. They came back this year with the goal of making it to state. If they play with the same kind of determination Friday, they stand a great chance of winning everything.”
“It hurts not to be out there, a part of it,” Winters said. “But I’m so proud of these coaches and the incredible job they’ve done and this team.”
Tim Melton, in his first year at Calhoun Academy, took over as head coach in Winters’ absence.
“It’s been an emotional ride,” Melton said. “It’s overwhelming to see a group of kids respond like this. They’ve never complained about any hard work we’ve asked them to do.”
Melton acknowledged his team faces a tall task in unbeaten and top-ranked Russell Christian. The Cougars lost at Russell 35-26 during the regular season.
“We just have to step up and play all four quarters,” Melton said. “We’ve got to be ready to get after it from the opening kickoff.”
“Our kids don’t want to just play in a state championship game. They want to win it,” Melton said. “They’re going to lay everything out there.”