Wednesday, April 08, 2020



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Alabama All-Star Defense Catches Coaches’ Attention in Early Workouts

HATTIESBURG (MS) – Alabama’s All-Star football squad reported to Hattiesburg Monday and began preparations for Saturday’s 33rd annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Classic set for the University of Southern Mississippi’s M.M. Roberts Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon with the AHSAA TV Network broadcasting the game over its network of cable affiliates in Alabama. The game will also be live-streamed over the NFHS Network’s subscriber-based platform.
    Alabama All-Star head coach Shawn Raney of Spain Park High School said while the talent on the squad has caught the entire coaching staff’s attention, “I think how they are handling themselves and how they are beginning to bond as a team is even more impressive,” he said. “We had to work out inside some because of the weather Tuesday, but we had a great day of practice (Wednesday).”
    He made a turnover challenge with the offense and defense, he said after Wednesday’s afternoon practice, and “the defense won Tuesday with five turnovers, but the offense had none today.”
    Raney said two offensive linemen were added to the team Wednesday in place of Hewitt-Trussville’s Logan Self and Central-Phenix City’s Joshua Jones. Both were stepped down due to injuries.  Mars Hill Bible senior Mack McCluskey, 6-4, 285, and Chase Little of Montgomery Catholic, 6-6, 305), were added to the squad.
    Quarterbacks Logan Smothers of Muscle Shoals and Sawyer Pate of Thompson made big strides Wednesday, said Raney. “Both are very talented and showed signs of really picking up our offensive schemes (today).”
    Lanett’s Kristian Story, an Alabama commit who set the AHSAA career total offense and touchdowns accounted for en route to leading the Panthers to a 14-0 season and the 1A state title, was named to the team in the “athlete” position. Smothers said Story worked out with the running backs Wednesday but will work with the quarterbacks on Thursday. “We plan to use him in a lot of different ways. He’s a really gifted athlete.” Story was named the Gatorade Alabama Player of the Year over the weekend.
    Raney also singled out running back Rondarrius Wiggins of Jacksonville, who had rushed for 2,835 yards and 47 touchdowns as a senior on 277 carries, including a 24-cary, 179-yard effort versus UMS-Wright in the Class 4A Super 7 state championship game last week. He scored on a 79-yard run on his third carry of the game.  “He certainly stands out,” said Raney.
    He said the strength of the team come Saturday may well be the defense. “I have spent a lot of my time with the defensive unit and we have a lot really good players on that side of the ball. They are working well as a unit.”
  Among the defenders are linebackers DaQuan Johnson of Flomaton and Demouy Kennedy of Theodore, two of the top-rated players in the game. R
      Mississippi’s staff added three players to their roster, skill players Errick Simmons of Greenville, Ashton Nickelberry of Brandon  and lineman Austin Wilson of LaFayette.
     Both squads attended a dinner at the Hattiesburg Country Club Wednesday night and will conduct two practices at near-by Camp Shelby with the morning workouts getting underway at 9 a.m., and the afternoon practice at 2 p.m. The teams will have a single practice Friday morning at Camp Shelby and will attend the annual player/parent banquet at the USM Thad Cochran Center Friday night.
  The squads will attend a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast at M.M. Roberts Stadium Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m., will participate in the
Meet the Players” activity on the field from 10 to 11 and the game will kick off at noon.
    The game is an event hosted by the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) and Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) in conjunction with the AHSAA. Alabama’s All-Stars hold a 22-10 edge in the series which began in 1988 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and moved to Cramton Bowl in 2011. It also started a rotation in 2015 with the game being hosted every other year by the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC).
    Mississippi won last year’s game 24-20 at Cramton Bowl and is riding a two-game winning streak heading into this year’s contest. Alabama holds a 22-10 edge in the series.


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