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Oxford’s Chris Cutcliffe, Lafayette’s Michael Fair take coaching turn in rivalry

Chris Cutcliffe is no stranger to the Oxford-Lafayette rivalry, but there is one thing he and Lafayette coach Michael Fair have in common when it comes to this week’s Crosstown Classic. Both will be experiencing it as head coaches for the first time.

Fair was hired by Lafayette in March and took over during spring practices and will be taking part in the festivities for the very first time Friday night at Bobby Holcomb Field.

“Big game for both schools, both communities, and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Fair said. “It’s just something you always hear about and what it means to both sides. It’s exciting to be a part of something so special. You can’t run away. It’s kind of everywhere you turn, and folks want to talk about it. I take great pride in it already.”

Coming from spending the past couple of seasons at Senatobia, Fair noted there was not really a big rivalry game on their schedule each year that players had circled on their calendar. A search for a comparison at any school he had coached at was hard to find.

“It’s tough to compare,” Fair said. “I don’t know if I’ve been a part of so much excitement as far as a regular season game like this.”

When it comes to Oxford and Cutcliffe, it is just another Friday night matchup with their rival. Cutcliffe has been a part of these games as a player, an assistant coach and now can add head coach to the list.

With so much experience to fall back on when this week arrived, Cutcliffe did not have to make too big of an adjustment when trying to manage his emotions on a personal level.

“I’ve been involved in this rivalry a long time and know how important it is to the community,” Cutcliffe said. “As a coach, I think you’re always, every week, trying to cover your bases. Trying to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts and do everything you can possibly do to give your players a chance.”

The experience as a player when it comes to this game is something Cutcliffe has been using all week to help his younger players manage their emotions, including sophomore quarterback John Reece McClure. Having been a quarterback himself, Cutcliffe can give very specific advice to his sophomore signal caller.

“John Reece has done an outstanding job at practice, really all year,” Cutcliffe said. “What he does an exceptional job of is taking things from practice and applying them. … I thought (Tuesday) John Reece had a really great day at practice. I think he’s locked in and focused.”