Miss.-Ala. All-Star Football Game: Short-handed stars struggle

By John Wilbert | NEMS Daily Journal

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A short-handed Mississippi squad came alive in the second half, but an abysmal offensive performance would ultimately cost them.
Despite missing seven players originally selected to play in Saturday afternoon’s 25th Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game at the Cramton Bowl, the Mississippi All-Stars held the Alabama team to only seven points in the final 24 minutes. Their offense, however, only managed three first downs and 60 yards of total offense in a 31-12 loss to the Yellowhammer State’s best high school football seniors.
By winning their fourth straight All-Star contest Saturday, Alabama improved to 18-7 in the series.
“It was just missed blocks and penalties. That’s what messed us up,” said Lafayette running back Demarkous Dennis, who had two carries for minus-7 yards and one reception for a loss of 1 yard against the Alabama All-Stars.
Playing without quarterbacks Jeremy Liggins (college testing) of Lafayette and Todd Mays (illness) of Olive Branch, the Mississippi team – which was penalized five times for 62 yards – fell behind 24-3 by halftime.
Alabama MVP TJ Yeldon (16 carries for a game-high 125 yards) scored two of his three touchdowns in the second quarter on runs of 2 and 9 yards.
Matt Pensa started the scoring with a 28-yard field goal with 7:50 remaining in the first, and quarterback Jameis Winston rounded out the scoring in the first half with an 11-yard run with 34 seconds left.
Following a blocked punt, Devon Bell (Warren Central) booted a 20-yard field goal to give Mississippi its first points and to tie the game at 3-all with 48 seconds remaining in the first period.
Mississippi only managed one first down and 14 total yards in the first half.
“They were quick, but strength-wise they were not all that strong,” West Point’s offensive right guard Romia Wilson said about Alabama’s defense.
Playing for pride
In the second half, however, the Mississippi stars would receive a boost from their defense and special teams.
With nobody paying attention and both team’s players thinking an Alabama punt was going to be downed and touched dead, Greg Sims – the Mississippi MVP – then scooped up the ball and raced 51 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Magnolia State to within two scores, at 24-10, with 6:13 to play in the third.
A.J. Jefferson (North Pike) tacked on a safety four-and-a-half minutes into the fourth quarter, but twelve points was the closest Mississippi got.
“We just wanted to pick it up ourselves, for the pride of Mississippi,” West Point linebacker Brandon Edwards said of his fired-up teammates in the second half. “We wanted to take it out on a good note.”
Edwards and Aberdeen defensive end Channing Ward had pretty good games on the defensive side of the ball, with Edwards making two tackles and recording a sack and Ward registering 11⁄2 sacks and three tackles.
Yeldon put the exclamation point on Alabama’s win with a 37-yard scoring run with 1:37 left in the game.
“They didn’t really wear us down,” Edwards said. “We kind of beat ourselves a little bit.”
john.wilbert@journalinc.com