HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - If it were up to Mississippi's high school football all-stars, they likely would suggest that every meeting with its Alabama counterparts take place at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the University of Southern Mississippi campus.
Twice, the annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Game has been played in Mississippi, and twice, the home team has come away victorious.
Saturday afternoon, Mississippi spotted Alabama a 7-0 lead before scoring the game's next six touchdowns in a runaway 42-7 win in the annual 31st meeting between the rival states' all-star football teams.
"It was great," said Brookhaven High School cornerback Jemaurian Jones, one of four USM commitments playing for Mississippi Saturday. "Great competition, well, not really, but we prepared, prepared all through the week and it showed out on the field."
Mississippi scored more points Saturday than it had in any of the previous 30 meetings with Alabama and its 35-point victory margin was its largest in the series, surpassing the 29-point advantage Mississippi had in a 38-9 victory in 1995.
"Our kids were ready," said Jefferson Davis County coach Lance Mancuso, who guided his Jaguars to the Class 3A football championship earlier this month before leading the Mississippi All-Stars this week. "They'd been told that they didn't have a chance, but, you know, they just rose to the occasion."
Though Mississippi won for the second time in three years, Alabama still leads the series 22-9.
In fact, Alabama struck first Saturday, going 76 yards in seven plays.
After two running plays were snuffed for minus 8 yards by Mississippi's defense, Saraland High School quarterback Jack West connected with Paul W. Bryant High School receiver Seth Williams, who bulled for the final few yards of a 19-yard gain on third-and-18.
'Bama then chewed up the remaining 60 yards on four carries, with Wetumpka High School running back Kavosiey Smoke breaking a 42-yard run. Smoke later capped the drive with a 1-yard trot into the end zone to give Alabama a 7-0 lead with 7:03 left in the first quarter.
But that was it for the visitors, whose mistakes set up relatively short scoring drives by Mississippi time and time again.
An Alabama mistake led to Mississippi tying the game 7-7 after one quarter.
Slow and short snaps from center plagued Alabama all day, and this one cost the visitors dearly when a botched snap was bobbled, then batted over the line, where West Point defensive back Jason Browlee recovered at the Alabama 24-yard line.
On Mississippi's first play, Yazoo County quarterback Kenneth Gainwell faked a handoff to the left, then whirled to his right and sped 24 yards to score the first of his three touchdowns.
Each team missed long field goal attempts in the second quarter to keep the game knotted at 7-7 at halftime.
"We told our guys to just keep fighting, no matter what," Mancuso said. "There were going to be good plays, and there were going to be bad plays, but get us to the second half. That was plan. Get us to the second half and let it be close, and we thought we could wear them down."
After halftime, one of the game's smallest players in stature, Pearl High School linebacker Tylan Knight, started to come up really big for Mississippi.
Knight, generously listed at 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and 178 pounds, returned a punt 29 yards, and despite a block-in-the-back call, Mississippi still was set up at Alabama's 35-yard line. South Panola High School quarterback found New Hope High School receiver Jeremy Tate Jr. for 30 yards and a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line.
Three plays later, Shegog scrambled to his left to put Mississippi ahead for good, 14-7.
Knight gave Mississippi another short field when he intercepted Sidney Lanier High School quarterback James Foster at Alabama's 26-yard line.
A 23-yard pass from Shegog to East Central High School tight end Brad Cumbest set Mississippi up at the 4-yard line, and two plays later, West Point quarterback/running back Marcus Murphy, banged in from 2 yards out to push the lead to 21-7.
"This was very satisfying," said King, who also pocketed a Class 6A state championship ring two weeks ago. "We accomplished what we set out to do, and that was to brings back this 'W' to Mississippi. Now, we'll be a part of history."
Nanih Waiya High School defensive back Chris Smith returned a punt 21 yards to the Alabama 46-yard line, and Mississippi needed just six plays to cash in the good field position. Gainwell scored on a 12-yard run and Mississippi had a 28-7 lead.
Smith set up Gainwell's 3-yard scoring run when he forced an Alabama fumble at the 25-yard line that was recovered by Seminary defensive tackle Q'vaius Currie. Murphy capped the scoring with a 25-yard touchdown run with 2:41 to play.
For only the second time in game's history, co-MVPs for Mississippi were selected, with Gainwell and Knight sharing the honor.
Gainwell rushed for 56 yards and three touchdowns, and completed one-of-two passes for 16 yards.
King helped Mississippi limit Alabama to 218 yards total offense. King had four tackles, with 2 ½ for loss, including a sack, and broke up a pass in addition to his interception. He also returned three punts for 45 yards.
Thompson High School linebacker Kenneth Robertson was Alabama's MVP after making five tackles, with 2 ½ tackles for loss, including a sack.
Smoke led Alabama rushers with 69 yards, with 63 coming in the first half and 43 yards on Alabama's first drive of the game.
Mississippi featured eight standouts from Pine Belt high schools. Hattiesburg High School running Fabian Franklin carried once for a loss of 4 yards, while HHS linebacker Will Robinson made three tackles and broke up pass.
Oak Grove High School linebacker Hayes Maples finished with 3 ½ tackles, including a tackle for loss, and forced a fumble. Teammates, defensive end Jaden Crumedy, had two tackles, including a tackle for loss.
Curry and Wayne County defensive tackle Quentin Bivens each was credited with a half-tackle, while JDC linebacker Darryl Sims had two tackles.
Also playing for Mississippi were JDC offensive lineman Justin Ducksworth and USM commitment, Brookhaven center Trace Clopton.