High School Sports

Coast’s best football players out to prove they belong, land more offers

Ocean Springs' Austin Williams (18) cannot hold on to this pass reception against George County defensive back Kaleb Gentry (23) during the first quarter, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, at Greyhound Stadium in Ocean Springs. Williams is representing Mississippi in the 30th annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game, which will be played Saturday in Montgomery, Alabama.
Ocean Springs' Austin Williams (18) cannot hold on to this pass reception against George County defensive back Kaleb Gentry (23) during the first quarter, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, at Greyhound Stadium in Ocean Springs. Williams is representing Mississippi in the 30th annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game, which will be played Saturday in Montgomery, Alabama. Special to the Sun Herald

South Mississippi’s top football talent can’t pack up their pads just yet.

Eight of the Coast’s top seniors headed east Monday morning for Montgomery, Alabama, the site of the 30th annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game.

Representing Mississippi in the Dec. 10 game at the Cramton Bowl will be linemen James Jackson (Pascagoula), Conner Estes (East Central), Paul Gainer (Gautier) and Jacob Shoemaker (Harrison Central), quarterback Myles Brennan (St. Stanislaus), receivers Tyrese Fryfogle (George County) and Austin Williams (Ocean Springs) and tight end Chase Rogers (St. Stanislaus).

“I don’t really know what to expect,” Estes said. “I’m excited to go play with the guys. I’ve gotten to know James Jackson and Paul Gainer and we’ve become friends. I look forward to having this experience with them.”

Lopsided rivalry

The series has been rather lopsided. While Mississippi won in Hattiesburg last season, you have to go back to the December 2007 game (the governing bodies had two games in 2007 after moving the game from the summer to December) to find the last time the Magnolia State came out on top.

“We want to get another one very badly,” Gainer said. “I feel like if we go out there and compete we’ll dominate Alabama.

“I feel like this is the best of the best playing against each other.”

Looking for offers

Every year, players on both sides view the annual game as one last chance to show out for college coaches. This year won’t be any different for the bulk of South Mississippi’s contingent.

Of the eight Coast players in the game, Williams, Gainer and Jackson are all firmly committed to Mississippi State, while Estes has pledged to Louisiana Tech. Fryfogle holds offers from Idaho and Ole Miss but has yet to commit, while Myles Brennan (LSU) and Chase Rogers (Tennessee) recently re-opened their recruitment. Shoemaker also holds offers from Louisiana-Monroe, Nicholls State, Southeastern Louisiana and several other schools.

“Always when I go out I’m really trying to play to the best of my ability,” Brennan said. “I’m just going out there to play against some good competition, enjoy it and use it as one last boost to make a final decision and get ready for college.”

Shoemaker said he’s more anxious than anything else to get the week of practice started.

“I can’t wait to get over there and start practicing,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity. There’s going to be plenty of scouts there. That’s just going to make me push harder.”

Rogers said Texas has continued to reach out to him and he’s hoping to land an in-home with the new staff on Sunday before the recruiting “dead period” hits for the holidays. Estes said Ole Miss and MSU have been in contact recently. While he’s listening to the SEC programs, he said he remains solid to LT.

Firmly committed

Like Gainer and Jackson, Williams is firmly committed to MSU. He took an official visit to Starkville over the weekend and said he plans to enroll at MSU in January. So while some of his Coast teammates are looking to open eyes one more time before signing day in February, he’s more focused on competing against Alabama’s best.

“I just want to have a good game,” he said.

Offensive firepower

Mississippi is sure to have a spark on offense this year.

In addition to the Coast’s offensive group, Mississippi will be bolstered by the state’s top recruit and 6A Mr. Football, Clinton running back Cam Akers. He came up in several conversations with Coast players.

“I’m ready to get with the team and watch Cam Akers. I’ve seen his highlights,” Fryfogle said. “I’m ready to team up with him and watch him play.”

Added Brennan: “We’re going to have a bunch of great receivers. We’re going to have Cam at running back,” Brennan said. “Offensively, I feel like we’ll be really explosive. We just have to come out and make good plays.”

Rogers said it’s only just now hitting home that this will likely be the last time he catches a pass from Brennan — unless their recruitment aligns at the same school.

“It’ll be nice to have one more chance to do our thing and do what we do,” he said.

Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game

When: Noon, Saturday

Where: Cramton Bowl; Montgomery, Alabama

TV: WLOX

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