GULFPORT – Reed Bigham watched the field goal he missed in Saturday’s 65th Bernard Blackwell All-Star Football Classic at Gulfport High’s fog-filled Milner Stadium.
However, Tupelo High’s kicker/punter didn’t watch the 48-yarder he booted later in the game.
“I usually don’t watch when I know the trajectory is good,” he said. “On the first one, I sorta watched it because I was kicking into a wall of wind.”
The wind caught Bigham’s 48-yard attempt in the first quarter and caused it to land on the crossbar. Instead of bouncing over, the ball flipped back into the end zone.
“There was some heartache on that one,” he said. “I knew I had to redeem myself.”
For his efforts, which included one kickoff into the endzone and a 37.2 average on four punts, Bigham was named the North’s offensive MVP.
“I really honored; I didn’t expect it,” he said.
The annual Bill Stewart Awards, presented to the players who exemplify courage, sportsmanship and character, went to (North) Tupelo linebacker James Gilleylen (North) and Oak Grove quarterback Kirk McCarty (South).
Gilleylen, who recorded six tackles, was pleased with his performance.
“I gave it all I had,” he said. “I sure wasn’t expecting to win this.”
McCarty was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a leg/ankle injury. The Southern Miss baseball signee was taken to the hospital for x-rays at halftime.
He was injured at the end of a 2-yard run on a draw play.
Before leaving the stadium for the hospital, he was presented his honor at halftime. McCarty directed Oak Grove to a 14-7 win against Tupelo in this season’s Class 6A state championship game.
Bill Stewart was a former Southern Miss football standout who lost his life in the Korean Conflict.
Ripley linebacker Aleck Hobson recorded five tackles for the North.
During the summer, Hobson provided big hits for the Booneville American Legion team. In the opening round of the state tournament in Petal, he belted a two-run double in the eighth inning to lead Booneville to 6-4 upset win against Pontotoc.
“I’m undecided on whether I’ll play football or baseball (in college),” said Hobson, who will play rightfield and pitch this spring for the Tigers. “I had the most fun I’ve had playing (football) … in this game and in practice.”
The managers for the North all-stars were Tupelo High’s Hunter Jones and Danarius Norman. … The North assistants included Itawamba AHS’s Toby Collums, West Point’s Lee J. Grisham, Booneville’s Mike Mattox and New Albany’s Ron Price. … With the victory, the South now leads the series 31-26-4.