SMITHVILLE – Depending on which of the four players in the group you talk to, they’ll either tell you they enjoy following or leading the others on the football field.
“Always,” Antwune Freeman said when asked if he preferred to run behind right tackle Zack Stephenson and center Steve Adams on running plays.
“Just give them a little hole and they can make a big hole out of it,” Stephenson said about blocking for running backs and twin brothers Antwune (pronounced AN-twon) and Datrune (pronounced DAY-tron) Freeman.
The four Smithville High seniors have started on the Seminoles’ varsity team since their freshmen seasons, and have been friends for a longer period.
They get a chance tonight against Hamilton to get back on track after losing the season opener to Sulligent, Ala.
“We’ve been close ever since we were kids,” said Antwune Freeman, who is technically a fullback but gets as many touches as a regular back. “We played T-ball and everything together.”
While their college futures remain uncertain, the four Smithville standouts are certain about one thing: They want nothing more than to win a state championship this season.
“I think we got a good chance of making it to the state (championship game) and winning it,” said Datrune Freeman. “We just gotta keep working hard and doing what’s best for us.”
And the foursome is motivated more so this year than ever – and not just because it’s their last go around.
The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Adams said his team wants to erase the memories of last year’s 10-0 regular-season record and then disappointing first-round playoff exit.
“We got it in there (the Smithville field house) on the board: a little ‘10’ and a big ‘1’,” the senior lineman said about last year’s final record. “We got it fresh on our minds every day.”
Smithville High head football coach Bubba Tacker said every now and then you will have a freshman who will start on the varsity team.
… But four, Coach?
“Very seldom does a freshman start,” said Tacker, a former Smithville High player. “You’ll have one every now and then that will start, but to have four … that’s something unique.”
The now 6-foot, 220-pound Antwune Freeman started as an outside linebacker as a freshman, while his smaller brother (5-8, 175), who goes by the nickname Da Da (pronounced DAY-day), started as a cornerback that season.
“He’s pretty solid at corner,” Tacker said of the quiet Datrune, whom he refers to as his “unspoken leader.”
“He’s what we like to refer to, maybe, as a shutdown corner. We can lock him up on pretty much anybody. He has the ability to shut them down.”
The Freeman brothers both ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2009, and paving the way was Adams and Stephenson.
Adams, who started at right guard his freshman year, has been playing center on the offensive line, including last season when he was snapping the ball to Antwune Freeman, then Smithville’s quarterback. Adams said Southern Miss has shown some interest in him.
Meanwhile, the taller Stephenson, who stands at 6-61⁄2, 280, drew starts at left tackle as a ninth-grader. He said Itawamba Community College, Arkansas State, Harding, Mississippi State and Southern Miss have stopped by Smithville High School, but there have been no scholarship offers.
“He’s kind of like Antwune,” Tacker said of his offensive tackle. “He’ll speak up and speak his mind, trying to encourage others.”
Tacker said his four senior players have always expressed desire to play college football.
“There’s nothing serious from any D-I schools,” Tacker said about his players’ recruitment. “Right now, they’re just looking around and seeing what’s out there.”
Even though they are not big college prospects, the four Smithville seniors are big influences among the Smithville High community.
“A lot of the younger ones look up to them,” Tacker said, “and even some of the younger players – not just younger people around the school.
“But some of the younger players look at them, look at the way they work. That’s what I tell them all of the time: that their big influences on the people around them. What they do matters. It’s not just for a win or a loss; it’s setting the example of how to do things for the future.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Booneville at Baldwyn
Vardaman at Bruce
Falkner at Walnut
Hamilton at Smithville
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal