By Austin Bishop
The Choctaw Plaindealer
CLINTON — Finally.
After 28 years of playing on foreign soil, the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Classic will make its first appearance in Mississippi when the annual contest featuring the best players from the bordering states will be played at M.M. Roberts Stadium ion the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg
“I think it’s been long overdue,” said Choctaw County High School head football coach Adam Dillinger. “We have deserved to host the game the whole time. I am tickled to death that we area actually going to get to host it.”
A four-year deal has been worked out, beginning this year, that has the game rotating on an annual basis between Montgomery, Ala. and Hattiesburg. The announcement came at a Monday morning press conference at the offices of the Mississippi High School Activities Association in Clinton.
“Alabama has been a great host for the last 27 years and we have no complaints about how they treated us,” said Johnny Mims, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Coaches. “But as much as they try to make it feel like home, it’s just not. We felt like we have never had a home field advantage. To be able to move the game to Mississippi for the first time, for our coaches to be able to make (a shorter drive) to the ball game, we think that’s huge.”
Mims also said he expected some new life to be pumped into the game due to the format change.
“Over there, it’s just something they always do,” he said in regards to putting on the game that features 40 of the best senior football players form each state. “When we come over here it will be something new. It will bring some life and energy to the game.” Mims note that the game has been averaging between 8,000-10,000 fans the past few years, but thought the 2015 contest in Hattiesburg could draw between 15,000-20,000.
The game was played in Mobile from 1988 to 2010, before moving to Montgomery in 2011.
The contest was originally put on by the same organization that put together the Senior Bowl, one of the premier college all-star football games in the nation.
This year’s all-star classic will be played at the Cramton bowl in Montgomery on Dec. 13, 2014, a week after the MHSAA State Football Championships. The game will be played in Hattiesburg on Dec. 12, 2015.
Alabama leads the all-time series 20-7, including winning the last six games.
The game made a historic move from a summer date to a December date with the 2007 season.
Later the Bernard Blackwell All-Star game, which features players form Mississippi who did not play in the Mississippi-Alabama game squaring off in a North-South format, moved to December as well. That game is played on the Mississippi Gulf Coast the week following the Mississippi-Alabama Classic.