GENE PHELPS: Volleyball growing, but skills evolving

GENE PHELPS

Beat, beat Calla-way. Beat, beat Calla-way.

That exercise chant – in the place of the usual one-two-three ... one, one-two-three ... two – could be heard on the McComb High football practice field in early October 1971.

The Tigers, 1-3, were preparing to play an away game against undefeated Jackson Callaway, 4-0, the Big 8 Conference favorite. Quick history lesson: The Big 8 was made up of the state’s largest schools in the days before classifications and state playoffs. The league’s champ was usually considered the state’s best team.

Obviously, McComb was a huge underdog, so the coaching staff came up with the chant for pre-practice calisthenics as a motivational tool. Practice that week remained the same – prepare to be the best you can be on offense, defense and special teams.

The Tigers were not conceding, even though the local newspaper predicted Callaway in a shutout.

Tupelo's task

Tupelo had a similar task this week as it prepared for tonight’s game in Batesville against top-ranked South Panola.

I don’t believe Trent Hammond and his staff resorted to any catchy chants, but I think they’ll have the Golden Wave prepared to play.

Tupelo’s players didn’t have to read social media to know they’re not the favorites. The Wave’s 3-4 and has lost two straight to Division 1-6A foes Columbus and Southaven. The “U” is 7-0 and has pounded division opponents Horn Lake, Olive Branch and Hernando.

“They play like Mike Tyson,” Hammond said of South Panola. “The kids know who’s coming. The last couple of years our players have been excited to play South Panola.”

Hammond expects to see “the same fire” from this year’s Tupelo team.

All not lost

Wondering how McComb faired in its game against Callaway 44 seasons ago?

Well, that “Beat, beat Calla-way” chant in pregame warmups at Jackson’s Newell Field did not faze the Chargers, nor did this writer’s tackle on the opening kickoff.

Callaway beat, beat McComb 42-0.

On a positive note, McComb may have lost to Callaway by a lopsided margin, but the season wasn’t over. The Tigers won three games – including a 36-8 decision against rival Brookhaven – lost one and tied one.

In other words, Tupelo’s season doesn’t end tonight, no matter the outcome.

Twitter: @genephelps

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