High School Sports

Coast players carry chips on their shoulders into Bernard Blackwell all-star game

Resurrection lineman Jackson Byrd attempts to get past an offensive lineman during Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game practice Thursday at Harrison Central.
Resurrection lineman Jackson Byrd attempts to get past an offensive lineman during Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game practice Thursday at Harrison Central. pochs@sunherald.com

Resurrection’s Jackson Byrd set the tone early Thursday morning.

Wearing an unfamiliar red jersey, and with logos from a number of schools plastered on his RCS helmet, Byrd lined up against another lineman in a typical “bull in the ring” type drill. Byrd fired off the line and practically drove his opponent 10 yards down field, prompting the bested lineman to ask for a rematch.

Despite being just an all-star game practice, Byrd and many of his South counterparts aren’t viewing the week as a vacation from school.

Each of the five practices leading up to Saturday’s Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game are seen as one more opportunity to prove the 11:30 a.m. kickoff at Gulfport’s Milner Stadium won’t be the last time they strap on shoulder pads.

“I get to go against all-stars on every team and see the best to see how good I am,” Byrd said. “I’m out here to do what I have to do and we’re all out here to do what we have to do to try to earn our place at a school somewhere.”

Byrd’s story is similar to a lot of participants in Saturday’s game. Although he was named the Mississippi Association of Coaches Class 1A Defensive Player of the Year, Byrd held a single offer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before the recent coaching change. Thursday’s practice at Harrison Central was lined by junior college coaches, all looking to fill their signing classes by February with the best Mississippi has to offer.

“I just want to prove myself,” he said.

Byrd’s not alone.

“They want to show what they can do,” said George County coach Matt Caldwell, who is leading the South squad this week. “A lot of the guys in this game, some of them have a chip on their shoulder because they think they should be playing in the (Mississippi-Alabama) game next week. They want to prove to people that they can play.”

St. Stanislaus quarterback Jake Greer passed for 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for another 729 yards and 10 scores. His only offer, however, is from Pearl River Community College — as a defender.

“That does put a big chip on my shoulder, being overlooked,” Greer said. “I take that into practice every day and it keeps me going.”

That mentality showed Thursday as Greer dropped passes into the outstretched arms of receivers sprinting down the field multiple times during the scrimmage periods of practice.

“It’s very exciting to be out here with all these good players. You go through the season and might be The Man on your team, and then you come out here and everybody’s The Man,” Greer said. “It’s good comparing to see where you level up with everybody else in the state.”

Poplarville defensive back D.J. Travis was reliving the “Hornet Bowl,” jawing at East Central’s Brad Cumbest anytime the Mississippi State commit was within earshot.

“That’s my dog,” Travis said. “Him and me have been going at it.”

Game notes: Saturday will mark the 69th time the North and South have clashed in the Bernard Blackwell game. … It’s the ninth consecutive game on the Coast and sixth straight time to be played at GHS. … The South leads the all-time series 33-27-4. … The South won 21-14 last year. … Tickets are $10.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game

When: 11:30 a.m., Saturday

Where: Milner Stadium, Gulfport

TV: WMAH-DT, Channel 19

Online: FNUTL.com

Tickets: $10