GULFPORT -- The South has won the last four Bernard Blackwell All-Star Classics by margins of 34, 15, 21 and 27 points. Lance Mancuso's crew is looking to keep the streak alive Saturday at Milner Stadium.
Following Friday's morning practice at West Harrison High, the Bassfield High coach, who is leading the South this year, made sure his players know what's at stake in the 67th annual North-South game.
"You're carrying the flag for the whole south of the state. It's not just one town or one community," Mancuso said after practice. "There's a feeling of camaraderie with the guys coming together for three days. It's very similar to the Mississippi/Alabama game where you feel like you're representing -- it's more than just your school and community. That brings a lot of pride with it."
St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead is the defensive coordinator. He's seen the players come together over the brief five practices.
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"The first day nobody really said anything to each other. Now you're seeing them building a bond and relationships where they're getting on each other and are a lot more comfortable now," he said. "I know they want to play well together and represent the South."
Go out on top
Ocean Springs' Vincent Milanese, who is playing tight end for the South, is excited for Saturday's showdown for a number of reasons.
"It's my last high school game and I want to be able to say I won that," he said. "We're all really excited about it, especially because it's a big rivalry with the North and South."
Added D'Iberville's Barry Leonardi, one of three Warrior defenders on the team: "There's definitely pride on the line. Just like we said when we broke it down (after practice), we're doing it for the South. We want to show out for where we're from. We're going to come out and play with our hearts."
The South leads the all-time record 32-26-4.
Plenty of standouts
The South's squad features a handful of Division 1 commits in D'Iberville's Jacquelle Green (Louisville), Harrison Central's Jordon Beaton (Southern Miss), Meridian's Julius Turner (Louisiana Tech) and Crystal Springs' Jeriko Morris (Southern Miss); Meridian's Daniel Crowell is a former Ole Miss commit. By playing well Saturday, those who don't currently hold an FBS offer are hoping to turn some heads -- if not by Division 1 coaches then the state's junior college system, which was well represented at the five practices this week.
"To be around a group of talented young men like this on one team is special for us as coaches because we're not used to that," Mancuso said. "I guess I know how they feel at Alabama."
Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m. The game will be streamed online at FNUTL.com.