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Egg Bowl week brings back fond memories for Oxford’s Cutcliffe

Thanksgiving week.

When families get together and spend time with one another while officially kicking off the holiday season.

For fans of Ole Miss or Mississippi State it is a week where fandom is intensified, possibly creating a house divided.

Now, if you are the son of one the head coaches this is week that few others can understand.

Chris Cutcliffe is in that exclusive club.

The current head coach of the Oxford High football team is also the son of former Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe and has experienced his fair share of Egg Bowls.

With the 2017 edition returning to its roots of Thanksgiving night — the first time since 2013 — it brings back memories for the younger Cutcliffe, who grew up around the Rebels during his formative years.

Chris’ dad coached Ole Miss from 1998-2004 and has one of the more successful records against Mississippi State in the past 17 years. Under David’s command, Ole Miss went 4-2 in Egg Bowl contests.

“We always had tons of extended family in and had a bunch of people there whether it was in Oxford or Starkville,” Chris said. “Obviously, we’d be at the game so we kind of celebrated Thanksgiving with our families on Friday. That was always a lot of fun.”

There were plenty of favorite Egg Bowl moments for Cutcliffe to choose from, including his dad’s first Egg Bowl in 1999 — or more commonly known as the ‘Kick and Pick’ game when the Rebels lost 23-20 in Starkville. Scott Westerfield kicked the winning field goal with four seconds remaining after Romero Miller’s pass was intercepted after it bounced off the foot of Bulldog cornerback Robert Bean and was picked off by Eugene Clinton.

“That was a crazy, crazy game. I definitely remember that one well,” Cutcliffe said.

One that Cutcliffe remembers more fondly is in 2003 when Eli Manning was the quarterback and Ole Miss shutout the Bulldogs 31-0 to finish 7-1 in the Southeastern Conference. The Rebels missed out on a trip to Atlanta after tying with LSU in the West. The Tigers won the tiebreaker with a 17-14 win over Ole Miss earlier in the season.

What made that year so special was Cutcliffe was the quarterback at Oxford. The MHSAA playoffs play their semifinal round the Friday after Thanksgiving, Oxford was hosting Noxubee County for the North Half championship.

David wanted his son to miss that year’s Egg Bowl and stay home to rest and get the proper amount of sleep before the Charger’s game. Chris felt differently about the situation.

“I didn’t want to hear that at all,” Cutcliffe said. “So I argued with him and argued with him. ‘Please let me go, please let me go.’ So we finally reached a compromise if I promised to sleep in the car on the way home. So, I got to go and watch Eli throw for a bunch of yards. Great night there in Starkville.”

The young Cutcliffe was a man of his word and did, indeed, sleep in the car during the two-hour drive back to Oxford.

The Chargers went on to defeat Noxubee County 14-13 and Cutcliffe led his team to the Class 4A state championship against Wayne County.

Learning from watching

Cutcliffe always knew he wanted to be a coach after watching his dad and mom, who was a teacher, help others growing up. He is now a head coach of a team who has a rivalry game of their own. Each year the Crosstown Classic takes place in September with Oxford and Lafayette meeting up to determine bragging rights for the next 365 days.

The rivalry is nowhere near as intense as what the Egg Bowl has become with the advent of social media tools, Facebook and Twitter. But after watching his dad maneuver through six Egg Bowl weeks, Cutcliffe has learned how to handle his own rivalry week.

“I think the biggest thing is rivalry games is you know it’s going to be emotional,” Cutcliffe said. “At the end of the day you have to prepare really well. …I think you’ve got to eliminate as many distractions as you can.”

No distractions for this year’s Egg Bowl as the Cutcliffe family will be together for Thanksgiving in North Carolina, where Coach Cutcliffe the elder is head coach for Duke University.