By John Wilbert / NEMS Daily Journal
OCEAN SPRINGS – Maikhail Miller’s performance in Saturday’s Bernard Blackwell All-Star Football Classic was typical of his play all season.
The Itawamba AHS senior quarterback completed 7 of 9 passes for 132 yards and rushed for 53 more to lead the North to a 19-14 victory over the South in the 62nd Mississippi Association of Coaches’ annual all-star game played at Hugh Pepper Field.
Most important, the Ole Miss commitment led his team down the field for the game-winning score in the game’s final minutes.
After the South took its first lead of the game on a Javon Washington 5-yard run with 4:28 remaining in the game, Miller drove his team 60 yards on four plays for the go-ahead touchdown.
He completed two passes on the drive for 47 yards and gained four yards on the ground to set up Devantampé Nichols’ 9-yard run with 2:49 left on the clock.
“We bonded pretty well over the whole week and then it turned out pretty good in the end,” Miller said of his experience leading the North offense.
Miller quarterbacked his North squad to the game’s first points – a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter by Madison Central’s Mitchell Huff, who later added a 26-yarder in the fourth quarter – on a 13-play drive highlighted by a 16-yard pass completion to North Panola’s Ricky Hunt and a 15-yard run by the Itawamba QB.
Battling a deep thigh bruise he suffered in the first quarter, Miller led the North to its first score of the second half when he hooked up with Hunt – the game’s offensive MVP – for a 46-yard pass and catch and then rushed for a 16-yard gain to move the ball to the South 4-yard line.
“I thought it was going to hurt me,” Miller said of his injury, “but I got through it and did what I had to do.”
Nichols, a running back from Pearl, finished things off from there with a 2-yard run to put the North ahead 10-0 with 3:25 left in the third.
South rises again
The South wasn’t done, though.
Washington, the shifty Natchez quarterback, scored on an 11-yard run with 34 seconds left in the third to make it a 10-6 ballgame.
Then with 3:14 left in the game, Washington followed Picayune’s Jamal Hall’s 2-yard run with a 12-yard completion to Purvis’ Terrison Dantzler, a pass interference call and runs of 2, 4 and 3 yards before scoring from 5 yards out.
Antoinne Adkins’ (Meridian) run up the middle on the 2-point conversion attempt gave the South a 14-13 edge with 4:28 to play.
West Point defensive end Vontarrius Dora said some miscommunication on plays in the second half contributed to the South moving the ball on the North’s defense.
Nonetheless, the North won for the first time in three games and inched closer to the South (28-26-5) for the series all-time lead.
“Any win’s a great win,” said Smithville head coach Bubba Tacker, who was coaching the North’s defensive secondary. “You had the best against the best and we came out ahead.”