Contest highlights former African-American high schools as a start to Black History Month
Photo: From left, Jorah Lawrence and Trevor Joyner wear the East Side High uniforms they will have when they play Hernando Central Thursday at Olive Branch High School. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
EDITOR’S NOTE: With DeSoto County Schools not having classes on Thursday due to the ice storm warning, the Throwback games were moved to Saturday, Feb. 4 with the girls game at 11 a.m. and the boys game to follow at 12:30 p.m. Following is the original story.
The Olive Branch High School basketball programs will again pay respect to its past and honor the beginning of Black History Month Thursday night when the Quistors and Lady Quistors become the Dragons of East Side High in the second annual Throwback Night games at Charlie Bibbs Gymnasium.
This time, the Dragons’ opposition will come from another DeSoto County school, with the reappearance of Hernando Central for the doubleheader starting with the girls game at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30 p.m.
East Side High, located in what is now Olive Branch Intermediate School, was the African-American school that was established in 1958 and operated until 1970, when it merged with DeSoto Agricultural High School to become the present-day Olive Branch High School.
Last year, the first East Side High Throwback Game brought Pontotoc to Olive Branch and while the “Dragons” defeated Pontotoc 91-83, the girls lost 60-56 to one of the top teams in Class 4A.
In its existence, while East Side High taught African Americans in Olive Branch, Hernando Central was doing the same for Black students of the county seat. Hernando Central was the first Black school built during the equalization period, when the state tried to preserve segregation by more fairly distributing resources between White and Black students. Hernando Central operated during the same time period, from 1958 to 1970, and was housed in the building that today is where Oak Grove Central Elementary School is located.
Olive Branch players know Thursday’s game has more than the normal meaning to the fans who will be in attendance.
“I know it will mean a lot to the people who came here before,” said senior Trevor Joyner. “It’s going to feel good playing for them.”
Another senior, Jorah Lawrence added, “I know the history of the school means a lot to the people that were here first. For us, doing this will mean a lot to the people who played for East Side.”
Olive Branch boys coach Eric Rombaugh first conceived the idea of the Throwback Night with Mark Guy with the Community Foundation of Olive Branch when Rombaugh learned that some of the East Side High basketball history was coming to see his teams play.
“Who were some of the players back then?,” Rombaugh said. “Well, it turns out they actually come to our games. Who were some of the coaches back then? I actually know some of the coaches from back then. So, it brought everything full circle.”
Rombaugh said it was appropriate to include Hernando and Hernando Central to kick off this year’s Black History Month observance.
“I’m really glad that Hernando wanted to be part of this and I think this is something that, not just the folks around us, but the folks in the state and surrounding areas can take a look at this and see it as a chance to teach their kids the history of their city,” said Rombaugh.
Hernando girls coach Blake Jones, who at one time coached at Olive Branch, hopes his players appreciate the event.
“We’re going to get over there a little early for some pictures and take it all in,” Jones said. “A few of our players have relatives that were members of these schools in the past I believe and they know it’s about the schools of the old days with the uniforms of different colors with different names and stuff.”
“This has a chance to keep getting bigger and bigger to where it gives people a chance to learn about history in a different way,” Rombaugh said.