Southern Miss

Why does Bassfield produce so many top football players? Maybe it’s the chili burgers

Southern Miss defensive back Curtis Mikell breaks up a pass intended for Kentucky wide receiver Tavin Richardson during the second quarter of their game at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg on Sept. 2, 2017.
Southern Miss defensive back Curtis Mikell breaks up a pass intended for Kentucky wide receiver Tavin Richardson during the second quarter of their game at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg on Sept. 2, 2017. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

Name this town:

A small town in Mississippi turned out football players so good in the past five years that this season, four of them start on defense for Southern Miss, another one of them is the top kick returner and backup running back for Southern Miss, two of them start on defense for Ole Miss and one of them has started on defense for Mississippi State.

Answer: Bassfield.

Even though there is no longer a Bassfield High School — it merged with Prentiss High this year to form Jefferson Davis High School — Bassfield has for years been a powerhouse in Mississippi football.

It won eight state championships, including four straight from 2012 to 2015.

And lately, that strength has been transferred to major college football.

Curtis Mikell and Cornell Armstrong are USM’s starting cornerbacks.

Jomez Applewhite is USM’s starting rover.

Racheem Boothe is USM’s starting linebacker.

T’Rod Daniels is USM’s kick returner and backup running back.

A.J. Moore and C.J. Moore are Ole Miss’ starting cornerbacks.

And Jamal Peters at Mississippi State started several games last season and one this year.

“We work out when we go home,” Mikell said. “We send each other game texts, motivating each other, because we want to do good since we came from the same place. We try to help each other. When we see a bad play, we’ll text them. We just try to coach each other.

“We never try to talk anyone down. because we all came from the same place and we’re all trying to make it out from our small town. It’s just motivation for all of us.”

Here are some statistics on the Bassfield group:

Daniels has run 16 times for 88 yards and one touchdown and has returned five kickoffs for a 20-yard average.

Boothe has made 4 solo tackles and 10 assists, and has 3.0 tackles for loss and one quarterback sack.

Applewhite has 6 solo tackles and 4 assists, with 0.5 tackles for loss.

Armstrong has 3 solos and 2 assists, along with one interception.

A.J. Moore has 7 solo tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sacks, along with 4 punt returns for a 2.0-yard average.

C.J. Moore has two interceptions, with 13 solo tackles, 8 assists and 1.5 tackles for loss. Peters has 1 solo tackle and 4 assists.

The players from Bassfield — most blessed with outstanding running speed — say they just played a lot of ball when they were growing up.

Or there may be another reason for their abilities.

“It might be the chili burgers at Ward’s,” Mikell said.

Mikell said eating out in Bassfield meant going to one place.

“We’ve got a Ward’s, that’s it,” he said. “Most people don’t know what a Ward’s is.”

College recruiters probably do.

Game plan

Who: North Texas vs. Southern Miss

When: 6 p.m., Sept. 30

Where: Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg

Radio: 104.9 FM

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