By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
GULFPORT – KhaDarel Hodge was listed as an athlete on the South roster.
In Saturday’s 64th annual Bernard Blackwell All-Star Classic high school football game at Gulfport’s Milner Stadium, the Mendenhall player could have been listed as a “game changer” after his performance.
Hodge stepped in at quarterback and sparked the South’s offense to 28 unanswered points in the second half of a 34-13 comeback victory against the North.
“I knew I needed to step up,” said Hodge, who was named the South’s offensive MVP. “I knew my team needed a spark.”
Hodge rushed for 25 yards, including 17 on his first carry, and completed 4 of 4 passes for 99 yards – one a 48-yard game-clinching TD pass to Sumrall’s Austin Watts.
Hodge and the South took advantage of three second-half North turn-overs to produce 14 of their 28 points.
“Everything was clicking for them; we couldn’t get a stop in the second half,” said North defensive assistant Reggie Richey, from Baldwyn. “They were beating us to the corner. Once we came up to play the run, they would throw the deep ball.”
The South took a 6-0 lead with 4:50 remaining in the first quarter on a 13-yard run by Hattiesburg quarterback Jamal Hatten.
The North answered with an 11-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard run by Itawamba AHS tailback Charles Moore. He had a 25-yard on the drive’s second play and finished with 39 yards rushing in nine carries.
“We beat ourselves with turnovers in the second half,” said Moore, who fumbled on an errant handoff in the third quarter. “We played our hearts out. I had a lot of fun.”
The North’s first extra point attempt, by Pontotoc kicker Jeb Millender, was blocked.
Amory wide receiver/kick returner Dario Robinson had a 21-yard kickoff return to start the possession. He averaged 21 yards on three returns and caught three passes for 39 yards.
Starkville cornerback Jacoby Smith scooped up an errant South lateral and returned it 45 yards for a TD in the second quarter to give the North its 13-6 halftime lead.
The South scored three third-quarter TDs by Hazelhurst’s Demetrius Cain, Bassfield’s Jerome Keys and Purvis’ Thamaz Taylor.