• John Macon Gillespie

The Semi-Return of Football: A Column on Jamboree Week

Football is (sort of) back.

Jamborees and scrimmages will fill our state this evening as teams get one step closer to the official beginning of the high school football season. While these controlled environments resemble actual games, none of them count in the record books, but they do provide a team with an opportunity to hit someone other than themselves in a football setting.

My first taste of high school football came in August of 2008 in Marietta, Mississippi, as the Houlka Wildcats and New Site Royals (now both non-existent programs) met in a fall jamboree on a neutral site at Marietta Elementary School. Both of these schools were entering their first year playing football, and this was the first organized action either team had experienced. Neither high school had a football field on their own campus, but New Site High School, located about seven miles northeast of Marietta, hosted this jamboree against the Wildcats on this elementary school's field.

The field itself was primitive, at best. No bathroom facilities were available. Instead, fans used porta-potties which had been placed nearby. More consequential was the fact that the field didn't have any lights, so the two teams agreed to play until it became too dark to see. In the early days of these two programs, any way football could be played, they chose to do it, even if it meant under less-than-ideal circumstances such as these.

As a fifth grader at Houlka who had always been obsessed with football, I didn't care that this game didn't count in the record books. All I cared about was the fact that football had finally come to my school, and I got to witness its first infant steps.

I still remember the first touchdown as Houlka quarterback Lorenzo Jones raced around the end for the score. That memory has stayed with me all these years as a defining moment in the birth of a program. New Site eventually claimed a touchdown lead, but Houlka secured a touchdown just as light was fading from the area to knot up the score.

The jamboree ended in a tie.

A few weeks had to pass before I was able to witness my school win its first football game in program history against the same New Site Royals. This time on a field with lights, Houlka secured an 8-0 win over the Royals with a defensive touchdown and a safety.

My point of telling you this story isn't simply to share some of my early memories of football, but to illustrate a point. Much like the tied jamboree 11 years ago between Houlka and New Site, jamborees leave us feeling unsatisfied and longing for more football, similar to an appetizer before a full meal. While jamborees and scrimmages are all well and good in their goals, they ultimately carry no weight in the outcome of a season and are really just shells of what's to come later that fall.

Still, when jamboree week rolls around, we all know that real football, our "full-course meal," is lurking just around the corner, and for that, we celebrate.

This week, we get a taste, but next week and in the weeks that follow, we get our fill.

Welcome to jamboree week.

Photo by Forest Shoemaker

Follow John Macon on Twitter at @JMakeSES or email him at

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