MONTGOMERY, Ala. — It all began with a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown by Robert E. Lee wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, a four-star Army All-American. The defense took over from there.
Spanish Fort linebacker Thomas Johnston finished with 16 total tackles and a tackle for loss as Alabama defeated Mississippi 25-14 in the 30th Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Game at Cramton Bowl on Saturday.
Johnston, who finished his career as the AHSAA’s all-time career leader in tackles, finished one tackle short of the all-time single-game record to win MVP honors for Alabama.
Oxford linebacker and Auburn commit Kenney Britt finished with 10 tackles and a forced fumble. Jackson-Olin linebacker and Auburn commit T.D. Moultry had nine tackles.
Johnston, who is uncommitted at this time, said bringing the championship trophy means a lot to him and his teammates.
“That kickoff return gave everyone so much energy,” Johnston said. “We thought the game was over right then, but I have to give credit to the Mississippi guys. They fought all the way until the fourth quarter.”
Alabama gained just 179 yards of total offense, but scored nine points on special teams and overcame three turnovers.
McGill-Toolen quarterback Bubba Thompson completed just 7 of 16 passes for 71 yards with an interception. Hewitt-Trussville wide receiver and Auburn commit Noah Igbinoghene caught four passes for 44 yards.
Ruggs was untouched as he took the opening kickoff at his own 10 yard-line, went straight through the middle of the Mississippi kick coverage, and left everyone else in the dust.
“We all had some good returners, and we were wondering if they were going to kick the ball to us,” Ruggs said. “If we did, we were going to make him pay, and they created a huge hole for me to run through.”
Columbus running back Kylin Hill finished the game with 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries to earn the MVP award for Mississippi.
Clinton running back Cam Akers have 65 yards on 19 carries and completed a 38-yard pass to Hattiesburg’s Jordan Murphy. Murphy had seven receptions for 78 yards.
Mississippi took a 14-13 lead early in the third quarter after Clinton’s Kam White intercepted a pass from McGill-Toolen’s Bubba Thompson and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
Ruggs said the thing he’ll remember most about the week is the relationships he’s built with players that he could see once again in college.
“It feels great to be back on the field, especially after the way our season ended,” Ruggs said. “It’s great to be with these guys from around the state and getting to know them.”
The venue of next year’s game in Mississippi will be either Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss., Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., or return to M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Miss.
All the Alabama All-Stars cared about, however, was bringing the title trophy back across the state line.
“We’ve talked all week about the fact that we got embarrassed last year,” Johnston said. “We had a lot of talent on this field, and we knew we couldn’t go down with another loss. We wanted to end our high-school careers with a win.”