Johnson wins Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game as coach, Smith plays on team
The last time Clarksdale High School senior linebacker Kevin Smith took the field playing for his coach Henry Johnson was a victory.
Johnson was the Mississippi coach for the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Football Game on Monday night. Smith alternated at linebacker and started on special teams as Mississippi defeated Alabama 24-20.
“It was a great experience,” Johnson said. “We only get five days with those kids to practice. We have to bring those kids together as one, as a team to compete. This is just a great experience. The kids came together very well. We put in a simple game plan. We went in and played the game and we won it.”
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I was around a great group of young men my age. That’s how we came out with the win.”
Johnson was 1-1 as an assistant coach in the all-star game and 2-1 overall after the victory Monday night.
Mississippi led 21-7 during the fourth quarter, but kicker Tucker Barefoot from Clinton missed a 37-yard field goal. Alabama drove down and scored to cut the lead to 21-14.
Barefoot redeemed himself with a 42-yard field goal to extend the lead to 24-14 and Alabama scored on a Hail Mary on the final play.
“It wasn’t close,” Johnson said. “We should have beat them at least by 10 points. They got that last touchdown on a Hail Mary.”
Starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee from Oak Grove threw an interception in the third quarter for Mississippi. However, Mississippi created two turnovers on an interception from Jarrian Jones of Northwest Rankin and a sack and forced fumble from Zach Edwards of Starkville.
Smith said he has always tried to play his role since his freshman year with the Wildcats and had some tackles in the game.
“I’m a team player. It really wasn’t different,” said Smith when comparing the all-star game to a regular game.
Smith said he enjoyed playing with linebackers Jay Stanley from Brandon, who is an Ole Miss commit and used to play for Greenwood, Nakobe Dean of Horn Lake and Avery White of East Central.
He was glad to have success coming from the Wildcats.
“I’m just a kid from Clarksdale,” Smith said.
Mississippi a team for five days and came together quickly.
“It didn’t take very long,” Johnson said. “By the third day, we were pretty together. We were a team by the third practice. We had some really good talent. It made things easier.”
Johnson said the one thing that stood out about coaching this all-star game was the kids.
“I thought we had some high-character kids, intelligent, hard-working, disciplined,” he said. “They just had all of the characteristics of a winner. It made our jobs a lot easier as coaches to coach them.”
It was also different as the head coach of the all-star game.
“As an assistant coach, you’re not responsible for but for one group, but as a head coach, you’re responsible for the team and the coaches,” he said. “You have to plan. You have to be organized, set practice schedules, make sure everybody’s on time, just making sure we’ve got everything we need.”
Johnson plans to bring back what he gained from the all-star game to Clarksdale.
Some of those things are, “I guess practice, organization, the mindset of a winner, discipline, character, some of those things our kids need to improve on,” Johnson said.
Johnson had all praise for Smith and said he was ready for college.
“Kevin did really well. I’m very proud of him,” Johnson said.
“He was a tremendous help to us.”
Smith does not know where he will be playing college football.
“My recruitment is still open. I haven’t decided yet,” he said.
“I’m going to sign Feb. 6.”
Smith thanked his mother, Bessie, Johnson, assistant coach Johnny Maddox and the other coaches for helping him get where he is today.