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Numbers demonstrate strength of football area

By Staff
Thoughts whizzing about as I wonder how Rocky Higginbotham and I will survive the 800 pound gorilla known as signing day on Feb. 7…
Five make it!
Evidence that The Meridian Star coverage area was one of the strongest in the state for high school football last season was clearly presented Wednesday when five players from the area were selected for the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Classic to be held in Mobile this summer.
There haven't been that many picked for the team in quite some time. And, there could be more if some the standouts play from Choctaw or Sumter County, Alabama, are selected to represent their state.
Though none of our teams made it to Jackson or Birmingham this past year, we had a slew of teams in the playoffs.
Meridian's two selections in Mario Hill and Jeremy Ruffin will be impact players in the college ranks next year. Philly players Marquez Dupree and Keith Houston are also coveted and talented players who have a legit shot at the next level.
And while I don't know much about Louisville's Bryant Thomas, I do know that he racked up an obscene amount of yards and it's not easy to be selected for the squad.
Coaches from across the state were on hand to help pick the Mississippi team. Yes, they were trying put together a team that will win in Mobile. But make no mistake, all had their own agendas. That's not a slam, that's simply human nature. Being named to this team was no sure thing, and I'm sure that anyone who made this team deserves to be there.
It will be interesting to see how many kids from this area will sign on the dotted line come Feb. 7. Don't be surprised if it's around a couple dozen or so. I won't be.
Mac's at Lamar …
With the recent addition of Mac Barnes to the Lamar School Raider family, it appears things are looking up for the football program.
Barnes' current contract at Meridian High School won't expire until May 31, and he won't be able to hold spring training at Lamar. But the former Wildcat coach, who turned out the likes of Demetrius Hill, Kenny Smith and Kenyatta Walker, will now be charged with the task of molding a winner at Lamar.
If anybody can do it, it's Barnes, who has made no bones about the fact that he's anxious to get back into coaching.
The complexion of the Raider program as we know it will probably be different next year. I'm sure you will see more participation and perhaps an improvement in the win-loss record. But even if the Raiders don't win their division, the attitude concerning football that Barnes will bring will be enough.
I foresee it like this: Some of the other kids who have had the talent in the past, but not the motivation to play, will come on out, if for no other reason than to see what it's all about. Once that happens, look out. It could be the start of something big. Don't be surprised, I won't be.
Before I go, just a quick word of thanks to all of the coaches out there who have been faithful in calling in their basketball games and soccer matches. We still need to hear from Sumter County and Choctaw County schools. We know you guys and girls can play some great basketball across the state line, so let us share that with everybody else.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rdark@themeridianstar.com.

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