Mississippi’s All-Stars dominated Alabama’s All-Stars 42-7 on Saturday afternoon behind 35 unanswered points in the second half to claim the 31st annual Alabama-Mississippi High School Football All-Star Game at the University of Southern Mississippi’s M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Starting in 1988, Alabama and Mississippi have played each other every year in an exhibition to showcase each state’s top high school talent.
“The talent in Alabama and Mississippi is just off the charts,” said Steve Smith, head coach of the Alabama All-Stars, to WDAM. “I told our kids I believe we don’t get the hype maybe that the Florida’s and Georgia’s and Texas’ and California’s [do]. But as far as per capita, I think the best football in the United States of America is in Alabama and Mississippi.”
With the win, Mississippi moves to 2-0 against Alabama in games played at “The Rock” in Hattiesburg.
It’s just the second time in series history that the game was played in Mississippi. The first came in 2015 when Mississippi won 28-21.
Mississippi’s 42 points is the most the state scored in the series and the 35 point margin of victory is the largest of any Magnolia State team.
Although Mississippi won for the second time in three years, Alabama still holds a commanding 22-9 series advantage.
Leading up to the game, many questioned if Mississippi could matchup with Alabama. The Yellowhammer State was the bigger team and have controlled the series since its inception.
Alabama validated those concerns on its opening possession as they took an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter with a one yard rushing touchdown from Wetumpka’s Kavosiey Smoke. This capped a seven play, 76 yard drive highlighted by a 42 yard run from Smoke.
Following the score, Ramsay’s Starling Thomas recovered an onside kick for Alabama, but the offense wasn’t able to capitalize on it.
Both teams couldn’t sustain any drives in the second quarter and each missed long field goal attempts keeping the game tied at 7-7 going into the half.
“We told our guys to just keep fighting, no matter what,” said Lance Mancuso, head coach of the Mississippi All-Stars, to WDAM. “There were going to be good plays, and there were going to be bad plays, but get us to the second half. That was [the] plan. Get us to the second half and let it be close, and we thought we could wear them down.”
In the second half, Mississippi left no doubt about who was the better team scoring 21 points in the third and 14 points in the fourth.
Mississippi continued to pour it on in the fourth when Gainwell scored his third touchdown of the game from three yards out. This tied him with Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson for the most rushing touchdowns in the game’s history.
As Alabama was playing for pride to make the score more respectable, Saraland’s Jack West connected with Austin’s Asa Martin for a 60 yard touchdown. However, a block in the back penalty negated the score.
That summed up Alabama’s day as their offense was plagued by mistakes, turnovers, drops, and bad snaps.
After forcing Alabama to punt, Murphy broke off runs of 59 and 16 yards before punching it in from 25 yards out. This gave him his second touchdown of the day and put an exclamation point on Mississippi’s impressive performance.
With a 42-7 blowout of their neighbouring state, Mississippi was pleased to avenge last year’s 25-14 defeat in Montgomery.
“Our kids were ready all week. They’ve been told they didn’t have a chance and they just rose to the occasion,” stated Mancuso to Mississippi Gridiron. “That is what Mississippi football is all about. We might not have the five star recruits, but we got hard nose football players that love the game and it means a lot to them. It was an honor to be a part of what all took place today.”
Mississippi’s defense held Alabama scoreless in the second half and didn’t allow them to reach the red zone; while Mississippi’s offense exploited Alabama’s tired defense for most of the game.
For only the second time in the game’s history and first since 2015, a pair of players shared the MVP award. Kenny Gainwell and Tylan Knight were selected as co-MVPs for Mississippi.
Gainwell finished with 61 rushing yards on nine carries for three touchdowns and completed one of two passes for 16 yards.
The do-it-all Knight ended with four tackles, with two and a half tackles for loss, a sack, a pass deflection, and an interception. He also returned three punts for 45 yards.
Thompson’s K.J. Robertson was named MVP for Alabama. He had seven tackles, with three tackles for loss, and a sack.
Inside the Numbers
Mississippi had 187 yards rushing and 138 yards passing to finish with 325 total yards. Alabama had 131 rushing yards and 87 passing yards to end with 218 total yards. Both teams had eight penalties.
Mississippi quarterback Patrick Shegog went 10-of-12 passing for 122 yards and added 14 yards on 10 carries for one touchdown on the ground.
Marcus Murphy led Mississippi on the ground with 131 yards on 13 carries for two touchdowns.
Jeremy Tate and Brad Cumbest led all Mississippi receivers with three catches for 49 yards and 36 yards respectively.
Leading Mississippi’s defense was Cam White, Hayes Maples, and Jason Brownlee. White finished with five tackles, with one tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. Maples had three and a half tackles, with one tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. Brownlee ended with three tackles and a fumble recovery.
Scott Goodman punted six times for 201 yards with a 33.5 average and a long of 45 for Mississippi. He missed his only field goal attempt of 48 yards.
Alabama’s quarterbacks Jack West went 9-of-17 passing for 71 yards and James Foster finished 1-of-10 for 16 yards.
Kavosiey Smoke ended with 69 yards on 10 carries for one touchdown to pace the Alabama ground game. Asa Martin added 52 yards on 12 carries and Carlos Davis had 38 yards on six carries.
Leading Alabama’s defense was Jacquez Jones, Jamias Presley, and Marese McBride. Jones finished with six tackles; Presley had five tackles; and McBride ended with four tackles, with two tackles for loss.
Evan McPherson punted six times for 253 yards with a 42.2 average and a long of 51 for Alabama. He missed his only field goal attempt of 51 yards.