HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi High School Activities Association will crown its football teams state champions after six games over two days at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the University of Southern Mississippi campus .
Thursday night, the MHSAA, Mississippi Association of Coaches and New Orleans Saints honored six individuals at the third annual “Mississippi Mr. Football Banquet,” one from each of the state’s six classifications.
“This is a big deal,” said Don Hinton, MHSAA executive director during a banquet at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg.
“This will be something you will remember the rest of your lives.”
Two Pine Belt standout quarterbacks were among the honorees, sophomore Ty Keyes from Class 2A Taylorsville High School and senior Jarod Conner from Class 5A Hattiesburg High School.
Keyes, who helped the Tartars to state title in 2017 as a freshman, led Taylorsville to a 15-0 record this fall by throwing for 3,736 yards and 38 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He became the first sophomore selected by a panel of 17 voters in the award’s three years.
“He’s one of the humblest kids I’ve ever been around,” Taylorsville coach Mitch Evans said. “All of this, last year a state championship, and he’s still just Ty Keyes.”
The Tartars will look to defend their crown at 3 p.m. Saturday when they take on Scott Central High School (14-1).
But Keyes will be watching from the sideline on crutches after suffering a dislocated right ankle in the second quarter of the South State title game against Bay Springs.
Keyes is expected to be sidelined six to eight weeks recovering from injury.
“When the doctor told me I was going to be out, it hurt me, bad,” the soft-spoken Keyes said. “But when I thought about it, I’ve got two more years (to play), and I know my team is going to get the ‘W’ for me.”
Like Keyes, Conner said he and his family appreciated the honor.
“I’d like to thank God for giving me the ability to play the game of football,” Conner said. “I’d like to thank my friends, my family and my coaches, and most of all, I’d like to thank my teammates because without them, I wouldn’t have gotten this award.”
Conner, who joined former HHS receiver Jordan Murphy (2016) as a “Mr. Football” honoree, threw for 2,324 yards and 24 touchdowns with nine interceptions and ran for 1,622 yards and 27 touchdowns this past season,
“We’re going to miss that kid, I can tell you that,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said.
The Tigers (12-1), who were the top-ranked team for most of 2018, were knocked out in the South State semifinals by West Jones High School.
Conner said he intends to graduate in December and the see where the next stage of his football career takes him. He originally had committed to the University of Memphis, but Thursday said he was back open.
“I’m leaving in December, graduating in December and then going to whatever school I decide to go to,” Conner said. “My recruitment is still open, so I’ll know in December when I get ready to sign.”\
The four other “Mr Football” honorees included Simmons High School senior running back DeMarrius Turner in Class 1A; North Panola High School senior quarterback K.J. Jefferson in Class 3A; Mendenhall High School senior quarterback Christian Allen in Class 4A; and the group’s lone defensive player, Horn Lake High School senior linebacker Nakobe Dean in Class 6A, one the top linebacking prospects in the country.
“Please, don’t take this for granted,” said banquet speaker Reggie Collier, a former USM standout quarterback.. “The farther you go, the harder you have to work to get to where you want to be.”