Local players prepare for Mississippi-Alabama All-Star GameBy CAMAL PETRO,
HATTIESBURG – The best of the best in Mississippi and Alabama have converged on the Hub City in preparation for Saturday’s 31st playing of the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game. Kickoff is set for Noon at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Team Mississippi has been practicing at Hattiesburg High School, while Team Alabama is camped out at Oak Grove High School this week. Tuesday was the start of practice for both teams, and they’ll have two more days of two-a-days, followed by one last practice Friday morning.
“We’re building the chemistry right now and learning the plays we’re going to run, so it’s been good,” Hattiesburg running back Fabian Franklin said Tuesday after practice. “We’re just trying to come out here to try and win the game.”
Both teams are staying at Camp Shelby, and with a minute-by-minute itinerary for the players all week. It’s giving the future of college football a small taste of what the next three to five years will be like.
“We’re staying in the dorm and we just chill,” Hattiesburg linebacker Will Robinson said. “We’ll go down to the lobby and watch TV, but other than that, we’re getting focused on the game.”
Robinson and Franklin are enjoying a week of practicing on their home field, then, along with Oak Grove’s Jaden Crumedy and Hayes Maples, the Hattiesburg natives will play in the biggest high school all-star game for a Mississippi high school football player in their hometown.
Maples and Robinson, both Southern Miss commitments, are also getting their first action as teammates and what it’ll be like playing in The Rock.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” Maples said. “It’s really cool playing in your hometown in front of everybody at The Rock.”
Both linebackers, the two are getting familiar with each other this week. Maples said Tuesday the two are developing a friendship with not only each other, but also the other future Golden Eagles on the roster.
“I haven’t ever played with (Maples), but I know he’s going to come down and step up when we need him,” Robinson said.
Brookhaven’s Trace Clopton, a three-star offensive lineman, and Jemaurian Jones, a 6-foot-2, three-star defensive back, have also pledged to join Southern Miss.
While Franklin, Robinson and Crumedy were announced in October as Team Mississippi players, Maples was added to the roster late last month. It’s something Maples has been dreaming of since he first put on a helmet.
“Whenever I got the call, I was really happy and excited to have this opportunity,” Maples said.
For Crumedy, it’s nice to have a familiar voice behind him playing linebacker, too. Maples said he let his high school teammate know immediately he’d be joining him on the squad.
“It’s good because we have a history together,” Crumedy said. “We’ve been playing together since we were in the eighth grade.”
Crumedy, a four-star defensive end by Rivals.com, is joined by a host of Mississippi State commits on Mississippi’s roster – eight to be exact. Team Alabama also has a pair of future Bulldogs.
“It’s been good just getting to know their character before we go up to Mississippi State,” Crumedy said of getting to know his future teammates.
Team Alabama has had the upper hand on Mississippi in the game’s history. Alabama has won 22 of the 31 meetings, and it won seven straight until Mississippi snapped the skid in 2015 when the game was moved to the state of Mississippi for the first time its history.
For now, the players are enjoying the week of being Mississippi all-stars. The players want to win, the coaches want to win, but the two-hour session practices are filled with light banter amongst the former opponents and a simplified playbook.
The two teams only have five days and seven practices to put together a game plan.
“Yeah, it’s simplified,” Franklin said. “They try to put it as simple as they can, but we have every five-star and four-star, so everybody is talented. Everybody is going hard every play. There isn’t anybody getting beat; everybody is getting after it.”
Also, it’s the first time these players have gone through two-a-days, albeit it’s less stressful practices this time around, since before the season began. There is one big difference from the two-a-days in the summer and now, though.
“It’s a lot better weather,” Maples joked.