- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - The high school football season begins a little more than a month from now, and with that begins the preparation for the prep football championships.

Oxford will be the host town for the 2015 title games with Ole Miss’ Vaught-Hemingway Stadium the location after Starkville and Davis-Wade Stadium hosted them last December.

When the Mississippi High School Activities Association called Oxford to see who would be able to take on an endeavor such as this, the first group to raise their hand and volunteer were the people at FNC Park. It was an obvious fit as FNC Park hosts many tournaments and hundreds of teams yearly at their sports facility and are used to being in charge of a lot of moving parts.

When the announcement came two years ago that Oxford and Starkville would rotate as host sites for the championship games for the next four years, alternating every year, FNC began following Starkville last September to help gather information and ideas.

“We kind of watched what (Starkville) did and after the games were over started formulating a plan,” Assistant Director of FNC Park Clay Brownlee said. “We went down for a meeting before the games, and then we also went to the games to see how they operated it.”

To the naked eye, Oxford and Starkville may seem like completely different towns, but when it came to looking for likenesses between the cities, it was not as hard as one would imagine.

“They are both SEC college towns,” FNC Park Director Brad Freeman said. “Oxford and Starkville have their own unique similarities, so they’re different in that aspect, but as far as administration of the game and what will go on for the 12 teams, it will be similar.”

Last season, the teams participated in what Mississippi State calls the Dawg Walk, where players would walk to the stadium through the Junction and other parts of campus. Freeman and Brownlee want to offer the same experience and hope to include Ole Miss’ Walk of Champions as part of the teams’ gameday experience.

“We want to make our event at Oxford stand out, and hopefully at the end, it will be a real good experience for all involved,” Freeman said.

With six classes and 12 teams participating, the championships take place over a two-day period (Friday, Saturday). Brownlee and Freeman have already put the wheels in motion. Last week, they presented a preliminary budget to the city breaking down what potential costs would be, including meals and a website for the championships as well as advertising and marketing.

Another category that was listed in the budget was an estimated cost for a consulting fee for Oxford High School tennis coach and assistant athletic director Louis Nash.

“When we initially sat down with (Mayor Pat Patterson), it was kind of his idea to get somebody that is familiar with how high schools operate and how high school coaches operate,” Freeman said. “The first person we thought of was Coach Nash, and he’s been in the business a long time and inside Vaught-Hemingway. He’s real familiar with the operations up there. Oxford High has been doing the football jamboree in August for several years now. He’s a guy that runs it, so it just makes sense to partner up with him.”

Freeman and Brownlee presented a budget that totaled $35,000 but pointed out it is in the early stages of planning and some or all of the categories listed could change, be removed or even increased when all is said and done.

The games will be played Dec. 4-5.

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Information from: Oxford Eagle, https://www.oxfordeagle.com

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