GULFPORT, MS (WDAM) _With the rain slashing across Milner Stadium Saturday morning, Oak Grove High School defensive lineman Jack Harris flashed back on the days of his youth.
“It was just sloppy and muddy out here and I told the guys we were going to come out here and have a lot of fun,” Harris said. “You know, as kids, you loved to play in the mud, and (Saturday) that’s what we did, played in the mud and had fun.”
Harris and his fellow defensive compatriots on both sidelines had all kinds of fun, with neither the North nor the South allowing a point as the 70th annual Bernard Blackwell All-Star Football Classic wound up in a scoreless tie.
“When it’s this sloppy, we knew it was going to be a defensive game,” Stringer High School linebacker D.J. Holifield said. “The defenses executed well. It was 0-0. Both sides played great. Both sides had some stud athletes.
“It was a lot of fun and I’m glad a chance to play in it.”
Saturday marked only the second 0-0 game in the series, the first coming in 1963. It was the first time the teams tied since a 7-7 deadlock in 2001.
The North had the better scoring opportunities, but threw two, red-zone interceptions and saw a 38-yard field-goal attempt foiled by a slick ball on the snap.
The weather made for mishaps and dropped footballs, lost footing and muddy splashes. Puddles turned into tiny ponds along the sidelines. Uniforms grew sodden and smeared.
“It was very wet, very cold,” said Oak Grove coach Drew Causey, an assistant on the South staff. “I went and bought some hunting boots, and I don’t even hunt. But I bought them this morning just so my feet would stay dry.
“I don’t know every kid’s background, but I know every kid on this team we had was a great kid. We didn’t have one issue with anybody. They were just a great bunch and it was a pleasure to be around them.”
And in the middle of it all Saturday, the players seemed to be having a ball.
“It was not the muddiest, but it was just great to play in this game,” Laurel High School defensive back Levi Walker said. “It was a great opportunity to be around a great group of guys on both teams.
“(Saturday), It was a lot of fun, sliding around in the mud.”
Winona High School defensive back Davandre “Dre” Bays was named South Defensive Most Valuable Player as well as the prestigious “Gameball” award.
Gulfport quarterback T.Q. Newsome, a USM signee, was named the Bill Stewart Award for the South team, while Horn Lake defensive lineman Omar Pew was the North team’s honoree.
Water Valley High School receiver Quaterrius “Bud” Tolbert was named the North’s Most Valuable Offensive Player, while Ocean Springs running back Micah Kelly was the South’s.
Ridgeland High School linebacker Mike Smith was the North’s Defensive Most Valuable Player.