Photo/Zac Chamblee

The town of Seminary was well-represented the last time their football team played for a state championship. That was in 2003 at Jackson’s Memorial Stadium, and Brian Rials, who was an assistant coach for the Bulldogs at the time, jokes that you could’ve robbed everybody in Seminary that day. 

Fifteen years later, Seminary is headed back to state, only this year it’s even closer to home at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium. Also, Rials is now in charge as the team’s head coach. 

Rials’ Bulldogs will ride an 11-game winning streak into Friday’s 11 am game with Water Valley for the Class 3A State Championship. The Seminary native called the last few weeks “busy”. 

“It’s hard to stop and let it sink in,” Rials said. “It’s hard to when everything’s going so fast and people are asking questions. It’s our first time here in a long time and my first time as a head coach, so you’re trying to figure it all out as you go.”

Behind Oak Grove, Seminary will travel the second shortest distance (21 miles) of any participating team to reach M.M. Roberts Stadium. The Bulldogs actually concluded spring ball there with a spring game back in May. 

“We made the comment then ‘Hey, we started our spring here, and we’re gonna finish at the end of November here’. That’s the goal obviously that a lot of people had, but it is special,” Rials said. “We don’t have to get hotels or spend the night and all that stuff. We can get up and basically have somewhat of a normal routine and eat breakfast and go play football just right down the road.”

Rials admits that it will be a little odd, though, playing a football game at 11 o’clock in the morning. 

“It’s not something you’re used to, but hey, we’re just glad to have the opportunity.”

In utilizing a dominant ground game and a stingy defense, the Bulldogs (12-3) haven’t lost since Sept. 7. In the last seven weeks, though, five of their games have been decided by fewer than seven points. That includes two wins over Jefferson Davis County and one apiece against Columbia and Winona. Those three teams combined to go 33-8 this year. 

“It just goes to my assistant coaches and the kids,” Rials said. “They’ve worked hard all year and believed in what we do. Sometimes it may not be pretty, but that’s what we’re gonna do and keep grinding away to see if we can pull off one more.”

Their final test will be against a Water Valley team that’s 13-2 and outscoring opponents 543-177 this season. 

“We know it’s gonna be a challenge slowing them [Water Valley] down,” Rials said. “Hopefully they have trouble slowing us down a little bit too, so we can keep up with them. You never know about the score, but I expect it to be a high scoring game just because they’re gonna give us some mismatch problems, and they’re not somebody you’re used to seeing.”

As previously mentioned, kickoff is scheduled for 11 am Friday at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium.