Antrelle Sims plays like an All-Star, despite being snubbed
Not all All-Star games are created equal and that’s true for both professional and high school athletics.
Watch an NBA All-Star game and you won’t see a modicum of defense until late in the fourth quarter as the game is just a serious of dunks and open 3-point shots.
The NFL Pro Bowl is the gold standard for all-star games that don’t really matter. By definition it is a football game, but there is a very little tackling as players would rather not get injured in a glorified scrimmage that comes after their season.
In the state of Mississippi there are some high school all-star game invitations that are handed out like participation trophies. A chance for an association to charge admission one more time as parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents shell out $10 apiece to see their all-star play again.
The Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) should be applauded for turning a few of their all-star games into premiere events on the athletic calendar every year.
A number of years ago they changed their all-star basketball game from seniors who were about to graduate to juniors who would be the seniors of next season.
That change in grades and moving the date to an earlier time in the year made the event an important target on the recruiting calendar of some of the biggest college basketball programs in the nation.
Depending on who was playing that year, it was never a surprise to walk into A.E. Wood Coliseum in Clinton and see the likes of Roy Williams, John Calipari or Pat Summit seated on the baseline watching the game.
The same can be said for the all-star football games put on by the MAC.
The Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game matters now more than ever. Alabama had long dominated the series that was almost exclusively played in the Yellow Hammer state.
Once the MAC got it back on Mississippi soil, the boys from Mississippi have responded. Our state has now won three in a row in the series including a 17-16 overtime victory last year in Hattiesburg.
The Bernard Blackwell North/South All-Star game is the other football game put on by the MAC and like the MS/AL game, it’s only gotten better over the last decade.
Played in early December and on the Coast for the last several years, it’s a chance for the players not selected for the MS/AL game to show their talents one more time.
Let’s just be honest, the MS/AL game usually has a roster stacked with players from some of the biggest schools in the state. Not to say that there aren’t small school members on the team, the selection process protects against them being totally excluded, but there are just five members of the 2020 roster — which numbers 40 — that come from the 1A or 2A ranks.
When the rosters came out a month ago for both football all-star games, I figured that no one in our area would be playing in the MS/AL game.
I clicked the link on twitter that had the Blackwell roster for the South team listed though fully expecting to see one local senior listed with the wide receivers. After scrolling down once and not seeing his name, I checked again. Then I went back to the MS/AL roster to see if I’d overlooked him there.
I even checked the North roster for the Blackwell game, thinking he may have been mistakenly played on it.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
At first, I was confused and then I was ticked off — Wesson senior wide receiver Antrelle Sims had not been picked for the Blackwell game despite being one of the very best wide receivers in the state.
Sims has put up big
numbers and big plays
Let me first say this, I’m sure picking football all-stars in the state of Mississippi is a very difficult task. Our state is as rich with talented football players as it’s ever been.
Look at the roster of the Los Angeles Rams. That one NFL team alone has three running backs who were born in the state — Cam Akers (Clinton), Darrell Henderson (Batesville) and Malcolm Brown (born in Biloxi but raised in Texas).
And the MAC selection process is meant to spread out all-star selections so that too many players from one area or school or classification don’t stuff the roster.
I haven’t seen all five of the Blackwell all-star wide receivers from the South team play, but I’ve seen two of them with my own eyes. Neither were close to the playmaker that Sims is. Taller — yes, from a bigger school than Wesson — yes, but not better — not even close.
I’m also sure that using stats to help make an argument for a player being included as an all-star this season is a maddening proposition.
There isn’t a team in the state that hasn’t been touched by COVID-19 forfeits, cancellations or quarantines to them or one of their opponents.
Wesson even had a game against Natchez end at halftime due to lightning and that game was hastily scheduled after Mize — the team Wesson was originally scheduled to play — went into quarantine.
Also, Wesson went unbeaten through Region 7-2A play in pretty dominating fashion — outscoring their opponents by a combined total of 218-22.
There were nights when Sims wasn’t needed much after halftime as the Cobras cruised to big wins over their divisional foes.
So, if his 2020 numbers weren’t pumped up too much, let’s look back at what he did as a junior.
Despite starting the season as a QB and not moving to full-time wideout until the fourth game of the season, he was 11th in the state with 1,085 receiving yards. He was 10th in the state with 61 receptions and caught nine touchdowns while also rushing for four more and throwing for two.
I’m not even going to go into the off-the-field qualities that Sims brings to the table. I’ll write more about that another day, but you’ll rarely find a kid that’s more praised by his coaches, teammates and teachers for the type of quiet, humble, leadership that he brings to every part of his life.
So how does a kid like that get overlooked in the all-star selection process?
Sims lights Bay Springs
up like a Christmas tree
Wesson coach Jeremy Loy has no idea.
“I knew he was being looked at by the coaches from the Mississippi/Alabama game,” said Sims. “Talking to some of those coaches, I knew he was in serious consideration, so I thought at the least he’d be picked for the Blackwell game.”
Loy was a coach on the Blackwell staff last season. He was surprised at the omission, but he also knew his senior wideout would use it like fuel on a fire.
Friday against Bay Springs in the opening round of the MHSAA 2A playoffs Sims was running around the field like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Super Bowl — which is to say he was nearly unstoppable.
He caught 11 passes for 167 yards and five scores. He also returned a kick for a touchdown as well.
And Wesson needed it, they needed every bit of it as they held off Bay Springs 56-54 in overtime.
Bay Springs is coached by Dan Brady. Though the Bulldogs lost, Brady isn’t done coaching football in 2020 — he’ll be the head coach of the South team later this year in the Blackwell All-Star game. Friday night he got a front row view of what a playmaker looks like.
In the second quarter, Sims caught a 4-yard touchdown pass where he boxed-out the defender like he was grabbing a rebound in basketball as sophomore quarterback Will Loy whipped a strike into his stomach.
His second TD was almost a mirror of the first, except this time he high-pointed the ball against a defender from 6-yards out.
After Bay Springs scored to cut the Wesson lead to 28-24, Sims picked up the subsequent kickoff on the bounce at the 20-yard line.
The return started down the Wesson sideline as two Bay Springs defenders got close enough to touch his jersey as he flew by.
At the 50-yard line — without ever checking up or breaking stride — Sims steered towards the opposite sideline and cut across the field to a huge piece of field that has no waiting Bulldogs on it.
The Bay Springs return team doesn’t give up as they closed the gap at the 3-yard line. It wasn’t enough though as Sims skipped across the goal line — ball held out ahead of him.
With 10 minutes left in the game Bay Springs grabbed some momentum behind a 61-yard touchdown run and they took a 34-32 lead.
Sims did it again though — whipping the defensive back in a straight up footrace as he’s all alone to catch a 42-yard pass from Loy to put Wesson back on top.
Again, Bay Springs scored and again Sims responded.
With just under five minutes left he caught a 29-yard pass that helped Wesson tie the game at 48-48.
The defender grabs him as he falls down, taking off a cleat —but not stopping Sims from catching the ball and walking into the endzone.
Once overtime started the Bay Springs coaches, players, fans, cheerleaders and mascot knew that Loy would be looking for Sims in the endzone.
That’s where he found him, streaking across the backline and pulling in a 10-yard score that put the final points on the board for Wesson.
It’s as clear as the nose on your face — Antrelle Sims is special with the ball in his hands.
He’s committed to sign with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and continue his football career there.
He doesn’t need any validation that might come from being picked for an all-star game even though he deserves it.
Cliff Furr is the sports editor at The Daily Leader. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.