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Local product in Army-Navy game

Throw out the record books. Army plays winless Navy Saturday andlittle more than bragging rights are on the line but that means alot to Americans. Naturally Army has a revenge motive after losing30-28 to the Midshipmen last year.

Brookhaven’s Maurio Smith will be starting at cornerback for theBlack Knights. Saturday’s game is being televised on CBS and kicksoff at 10:45 a.m., CST.

Like his teammates, Smith doesn’t need much motivation to getready for Navy. It’s a dog fight and a cat fight, all rolled intoone.

Certainly, it will be colder than a well-digger’s knee Saturdayas the wind howls through the 66,592 seats in Veterans Stadium inPhiladelphia. With our nation at war, interest will be higher thanusual in this ancient rivalry. It started in 1890 and Army holds a48-46-7 lead in the series.

Smith (5-8, 171) and his teammates have battled a difficultConference-USA schedule. The Cadets are 2-8 overall and 2-5 inC-USA. They beat Houston 28-14 and Tulane 42-35.

Smith’s closest home game was two weeks ago when Army lost 42-10at Memphis. For the season, Smith has made 24 tackles, including 15solo stops. He’s intercepted one pass and recovered one fumble.

His strength and quickness have improved since his glory days atBHS. “I’ve gotten bigger and faster. You get used to going againstbigger players on a higher level.”

At West Point, Smith is majoring in systems engineering. “Wework on the best way to do things.”

Presently Smith is trying to decide which branch of the Army toenter after he graduates as a second lieutenant in the spring of2003. “It’s either armor or infantry.”

One of 4,000 cadets, Smith copes with a heavy classroom load anda demanding schedule. “I love the team and the challenge itbrings.”

The former All-Lincoln County football and baseball player hasadapted well to the strict regimen of a military school. “Thebiggest thing is discipline. If (freshmen) can’t do it, they getdismissed. It’s not for everybody.”

After a summer in airborne school, Smith will be one of theseniors responsible for leading the new cadets in basic training.He went to leadership training last summer in Fort Sill, Okla.

Recalling last summer, Smith said, “They put you in a platoonleader situation. They put you over troops and equipment. That waspretty exciting.”

There are some good athletes at West Point. But the biggest andfastest high school stars usually opt for big-time footballprograms. “We have a hard time recruiting big linemen,” said Smith.Still, the rewards are great for the athlete seeking an outstandingeducation.

His mother, Kathleen, and father, Semmie, are extremely proud oftheir oldest son. Maurio has a younger brother, Semmie James Smith,who is nine years old.

“Maurio works exceptionally hard and he has lot ofself-determination,” said Mrs. Smith. “He has always been likethat.”

She and her husband journeyed to Memphis to see their son play.”I’ve been telling everybody to watch the Army-Navy game, andremember No. 1,” her son’s jersey number.

Quarterback Chad Jenkins (5-11, 180), a senior from Dublin, Oh.,leads the Knight on offense. He has passed for 1,654 yards and 8touchdowns.

Coached by Todd Berry, Army’s infantry is led by two strongrunners. C.J. Young (5-8, 196), a sophomore from Detroit, hasrushed for 516 yards. Josh Holden (6-0, 208), a junior from Hudson,Oh., has rushed for 515 yards.

Professor Hoopla, B.S., was last seen gearing up for theholidays. Hoopla had dyed his hair white and was practicing “Ho,ho, ho.” Hoopla’s yellow Lab, named Benton, dropped off his latestlist of predictions, complete with slobber. Here’s a look at somehigh school playoff games and some college contests of note.

Loyd Star at Gulfport St. John: Politics aside, the South StateClass 2A championship game should be decided by blocking andtackling. It looks like a fierce battle in Milner Stadium Fridaynight. Loyd Star 31-28.

MHSAA vs. Chancery Court Judge Margaret Alfonso: In this case,politics prevails, right or wrong. Alfonso wins reelection by alandslide.

D’Iberville at South Pike: Defense gets priority in Magnolia asthe Eagles host the Warriors in the South State 4A title game onColee Field. D’Iberville 13-8.

Southern Miss at Alabama: In a Thursday night special, theCrimson Tide gets a measure of revenge for last year’s embarrassingsetback. Alabama 24-14.

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss: Can the Rebels recover from their EggBowl breakdown in time for Saturday? Ole Miss 27-17.

Brigham Young at Mississippi State: If the Bulldogs can avoid aletdown, they could produce a second straight upset victory. State32-22.

Tennessee at Florida: Gators have the edge in The Swamp. Florida31-21.

Auburn at LSU: The winner gets to play Florida in the SECChampionship game. LSU 22-14.