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Mississippi Stars regain respect

It will be remembered as a great Monday night for Mississippifootball. The Mississippi All-Stars manhandled the Alabama dreamteam 26-7 in the 21st annual All-Star Classic in Mobile, Ala.

For sure, it was sweet revenge for the previous encounter whichsaw Alabama applying a lopsided 51-14 shelling last June. Movingthe game to December apparently agreed with the Mississippisquad.

Representing Brookhaven in the game were quarterback/defensiveback Charles (Bobo) Rancifer and wide receiver Simmie Yarborough.Franklin County was represented by cousins Bo Tillman and JoshTillman, both defensive linemen.

Bo Tillman had a bad ankle sprain suffered in the Class 3A statechampionship two weeks ago. Josh sprained his ankle the first dayof all-star practice. Both Bulldogs played but they were not atfull speed.

Bo Tillman contributed when he hit the Alabama quarterback.Rancifer picked off the fluttering pass, returned it 2 yards andeasily scored.

Shackled with the underdog label, Rancifer said the Mississippisquad had something to prove. “We went out there more intense. Weknew we had to be more physical than them. That was the only thingthat was missing.”

Asked about the pick-TD, Rancifer said, “All I needed was onestep.” He also recovered a fumble.

While Itawamba AHS quarterback Bret Jefcoat threw most of theMississippi passes, including 2 for touchdowns; Rancifer playedstrong safety on defense.

“Man, it was exciting to be around all those good players,” saidRancifer. “We knew we had a challenge. It was a team effort.”

Kenny Robinson of Mize served as Mississippi’s head coach.Working as his assistants were Anthony Hart of Lafayette County,Trent Hammond of Water Valley, Bubba Hathorn of Northeast Jones,Derrick Hooker of South Delta, Phil Oakley of Senatobia, ShannonWhite of North Forrest, Marcus Boyles of Wayne County, and SteveRudolph of East Central, who was administrative assistant.

“I felt good playing for Coach Robinson,” said Rancifer. “He wasa very good coach.”

Rancifer met a former Lincoln County resident on the Mississippicoaching staff. Hart, a Loyd Star grad of the early 1980s, wascoaching the secondary. Hart currently is employed as head coach atLafayette County in Oxford where he is enjoying another successfulstint.

Hart, a much-traveled veteran of the coaching ranks, directedLoyd Star to its best-ever state playoff showing in 2001 when theHornets reached the South State Class 2A championship game beforefalling to Gulfport St. John.

and finishing 11-3.

Hart left Loyd Star and spent 3 successful years at FranklinCounty before heading north to Lafayette County.

“Coach Hart said he was from Loyd Star,” said Rancifer. “He wasin charge of the defense.”

Rancifer had lots of praise for his BHS teammate. “Simmie didreal good. He had three catches. He made a touchdown happen. He hada good block down field that led to a touchdown.”

According to Rancifer, defensive back Alonzo Lawrence of GeorgeCounty “is a very good player.” Lawrence returned an interception94 yards for a TD.

“The Tillmans did real good even though they both had ankleinjuries,” said Rancifer.

“The Alabama team had some really good athletes. They had theNo. 1 receiver in the nation. Everybody wanted to go up againsthim. We thought he was overrated.”

Yarborough said he enjoyed the fellowship and the teamwork. “Itfelt good seeing everybody work together. I also got a big hit onthat block.”

Yarborough had 3 pass catches for short gains and also played onthe kickoff teams. “Jefcoat is real talented. He has an arm onhim.” Jefcoat is headed for Louisiana Tech.

“I’m glad we could bring that trophy back to Mississippi,” saidYarborough. He was impressed by wide receivers DeAndre Brown ofOcean Springs and Lawrence.

Complimenting his teammate, Yarborough said, “Charles Ranciferdid a good job handling that defensive pressure. He did a good jobpicking it up. I wouldn’t have been comfortable going fromquarterback to defense.”

Yarborough said he enjoyed the five days of practice leading upto the game. “I made a bunch of new friends. I met a lot ofcharacters. They are good people who just love the game offootball.”

At 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, Franklin County lineman Bo Tillmanwas the tallest comedian on the team. “Bo Tillman is a character,”said Yarborough. “He keeps you laughing.”

A gentle giant off the field, Tillman is recognized for his highintensity level when he plays the game of football with passionatemayhem. He likes to play basketball, too. You wouldn’t want todrive the lane against Bo unless you’re wearing a helmet andshoulder pads.

Yarborough vividly remembers the Sunday night all-star banquet.During the banquet, the executive director of the Alabama CoachesAssociation recognized wide receiver Julio Jones as Alabama’s Mr.Football for 2007. Jones stood up and took a bow.

Then Mississippi Association of Coaches executive directorJohnny Mims went to the podium. Mims told the whole Mississippiteam to stand up.

“He said,’ This is Mr. Football in Mississippi.’ It made me feelgood,” said Yarborough. “I liked playing for Coach Robinson. Heexpects the best out of you and that’s what you have to do. Thenyou’ll come out on top.”

His time at wide receiver was pleasant, too. “Oakley coached thereceivers. He’s a good guy. He’s real fun-loving. He always had asmile on his face. I liked that about him.”

Yarborough said there was no shortage of college coaches whoattended the all-star practices and the game. “Miami and a bunch ofpeople from Ole Miss and Mississippi State were there to watch us.I talked to the coach from Ole Miss and the coaches fromCo-Lin.”

Looking ahead, Yarborough said he plans campus visits toSoutheast Louisiana on Jan. 4. and Northwestern State (La.) StateJan. 11.

In the meantime, Rancifer and Yarborough will return to thebasketball court and help the Panthers get ready for South PikeFriday night in Sinclair Gymnasium.

This column wishes everyone a Merry Christmas! Remember, Jesusis the reason for the season.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com