Portable Classrooms on the Football Field
The goal posts, scoreboard, press box and concession stand were all blown away. The steel bleachers remain, anchored in more than
a foot of concrete, as the lone remnant of the football field at S.V. Marshall School north of Tchula.
High school football kicks off tonight around Mississippi, but not in this sleepy town where Mississippi 12 and 49 intersect.
Portable classrooms sit on the field where football used to be played.
On May 2 - two weeks before school was to let out - a twister ripped through Holmes County and flattened the school building, taking
with it all hopes of a "normal" high school football season.
A pile of rubbish sits at the edge of the dusty baseball diamond that serves as a makeshift practice field for the Tigers football
team. Nearby, players change into gear underneath the bleachers of the school's three year-old stadium.
But the players won't be wearing their gear tonight. Marshall had to forfeit tonight's game against Leflore County. The reason: The Tigers have had just three practices because it took so long to find a field.
"Everything we had was destroyed in that storm. The weight room, fieldhouse, our uniforms:man, everything is gone," said Larry Collins
,Marshall's coach for 21 years. "It really hurts. I've never forfeited a game in my life."
When the Tigers play, they will wear their practice uniforms, decades-old equipment that collins had tucked away in his house.
Even tougher to swallow for the players is that homecoming will be played eight miles up Mississippi 12 at J.J. McClain High School in
Lexington, site of Marshalls oldest and fiercest rival.
All of Marshall's home games will be played in Lexington; on Thursday nights in weeks when the McClain Mustangs are in town and on
Friday nights when they are on the road. Despite the adversity the Tigers are far from giving up.
"Its been frustrating not being able to start off right," said senior captain Odell Edwards Jr.,an all division wide receiver last
year who will play quarterback this season. "But we've got to do what we can to make this a successful season."
There were severe warnings May 2, and fortunately, Collins called off a scheduled spring practice. His players were at home
that Friday afternoon when the twister hit.
It traveled along what locals call "The Hill," a ridge that stretches 36 miles from Tchula to Yazoo City. Flat farm land lied on each
side of The Hill. The school sits on top, across Mississippi 12 from a church and a house. Those three buildings got hit. Not much
else did. There were no injuries reported.
"The storm wasn't too close to my house but it was close enough for me to be scared," said Edwards, who ranks third in the senior
class. "I knew it would be bad, but I never imagined something would happen to our school."
Things won't be any better for at least two years, said Collins, who is also the school's athletic director. Renovations to the school
are expected to be completed sometime around the fall of 2000. This means this year's sophomores, juniors and seniors will never
play another true home game. The Tigers can't have their home field back until after the portable classrooms are removed.