The respect that Starkville High School defensive back Jacoby Smith gained from opponents was especially on display in the Class 5A State championship game on Dec. 1.
As the Pascagoula Panthers were trying to move the football against the Yellowjackets, they wanted to keep going to the passing game.
What Pascagoula didn't want to do was challenge Smith.
The Panthers only threw Smith's way once during the State title game and he made a pass deflection. It gave the opportunity for teammates like Johnny Smith to makes plays which he did.
"You hate to say he's the best you've ever coached, but as true corners go, (Jacoby Smith) in the top two or three guys that I've coached at that position," SHS football coach Jamie Mitchell said. "Those guys get overlooked a lot. A corner doesn't get a lot of press time, but we play 99 percent straight man coverage and that was evident in the State championship when they didn't go at him. They stayed away from him and most teams did. They tried to get matchups in other places. He will be sorely missed for sure."
Jacoby Smith was rewarded for the reputation he developed on the defensive side of the football by being chosen to represent the North at the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Classic. Fellow Jacket Stanley Higgins will be the tight end on the squad.
Saturday's game at Joseph Milner Stadium/Lindy Callahan Field in Gulfport will be televised by WTVA in Tupelo at noon.
Starkville defensive coordinator Brooks Oakley said they would put Smith on the other team's best receiver most of the time and he always performed.
"Jacoby was really good all year," Oakley said. "He was our best defensive back for sure with great cover skills."
Smith had 50 tackles for the Jackets last season with one tackle for loss, one forced fumble and two interceptions.
Higgins was productive with the football in his hands, but the thing that made Mitchell the most proud was his ability to block.
"Early on, he was not very good, but I think he took it on as a personal challenge," Mitchell said. "To do what we needed to do, he was going to have to block. Down the stretch, he was a tremendous blocker for us.
"You saw our running game start to improve and he was a big part of that. He really did some good things in the blocking area. His ball skills are evident and that's easy to see, but what people don't see is how well he blocks."
Higgins was the second-leading receiver for SHS last season with 328 yards on 22 catches and four touchdowns. As a fullback, he had 21 carries for 96 yards and one touchdown.
General admission tickets to be able to see Higgins and Smith in All-Star action are $10. The South leads the Bernard Blackwell series at 29-24-4 and this is the fourth year that the game will be played on the Gulf Coast.