UPDATE: The 'Bring the Heat' jalapeno eating contest between the Milton and Pace high school bands originally scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. at the Whataburger restaurant in Pace has been cancelled due to the weather, according to an event organizer. The fundraising competition will be rescheduled and our publication will release the information as it becomes available.

 While high school football rivals, Pace Patriots will be hosting the Milton Panthers in varsity football next Friday night, the two schools are currently in competition this week with a canned food drive and a ‘Bring the Heat’ jalapeno eating contest on Monday.

 Since September 30, both schools have been collecting canned and non-perishable food items in order to see which school can collect the most.

“We will reveal pounds of food and winner at the Pace/Milton game” said PHS Student Government Association sponsor Claudia Cassevah in an email. “Last year over 18,000 pounds was collected.”

The food pantry ministry at the First Baptist Church of Milton will benefit from the canned food drive. According to Bo Mills, a student minister at the church, the donations from the annual competition help support the church’s ministry for at least six months out of the year.

“We serve anyone who lives in Santa Rosa County,” he said. “Although we do have some repeat (visitors), our pantry sees around 16,000 residents a year.”

Mills said two trucks will be rented, one for each school, with each school’s total collected items loaded inside. Each truck will then be taken to a weigh station in order to determine which school will win the annual competition.

Although Milton has won the last three years, last year’s competition was close with MHS winning with a 60 pound lead, Mills said.

The school’s SGA groups, which are leading the collection efforts for both schools, will also help load and unload the food items into the pantry, while the church will show their appreciation by serving them pizza. Although it is friendly competition between rival schools, Mills said the competition benefits the entire county.

“This is a great cause,” Mills said. “This is a community issue and a community need.”

Katrina Dawson, the co-sponsor for the MHS SGA, agrees. “It is something fun to do for a good cause,” she said.

Each year, the school encourages student participation by storing the collected food items in the principal’s office. In previous contests, former Principal Mike Thorpe was forced to work outside of his office due to the amount of donated items. In addition to having individual classes compete against each other for who can collect the most, the competition has also included contests for other public schools in Milton while recruiting the assistance from local neighborhoods. 

Cassevah said PHS has also been active in receiving support for the competition.

“We have gotten all of our area schools involved and all of the teachers at our high school are also involved,” she said. “We are doing a Hunger Games obstacle course as an activity to encourage students to bring in cans. Each “district” will compete against one another and the district that got the most cans gets to shave off time for their course time.”

The school has also been promoting the food drive on a daily basis through the school broadcasts, Cassevah said.

 Although the competition adds a little more to the school rivalry, the overall purpose of the food drive is to provide for area residents in need especially with the holiday season about to ensue. Dawson hopes her school’s football team can leave Pace with a victory.

“I much rather our school win the football game,” she said. The Patriots defeated the Panthers in last year’s regular season final football game. 

In addition to the canned food drive, members from the rival school bands will face off in Monday’s ‘Bring the Heat’ jalapeno eating contest sponsored by Whataburger. According to a press release from Whataburger Restaurants LLC, three representatives from each school band will attempt to eat the most jalapenos within a minute time frame.

The winning contestant will win a $1,000 donation for their schools’ band. Additionally, the students eating the most jalapenos will be able to eat a free Whataburger each week for an entire year. An additional $500 will be awarded to the school who brings the most fans to the event, which takes place at the Whataburger location in Pace, on U.S. Highway 90. The event takes place from 5 to 7 p.m.