Will Rogers threw for 9,094 yards and 79 touchdowns during his career at Brandon, but what he did Saturday at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg will be one of his most cherished memories of his high school career.
Practically playing on one leg, Rogers threw two touchdown passes in fourth quarter and overtime to lead Mississippi to a 17-16 come from behind victory in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game.
Rogers, the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Player of the Year on the All-Metro team, left the game in the second quarter after injuring his right ankle on the same leg where he had a knee sprain during the regular season this year.
“I couldn’t put any weight on it at all,” Rogers said. “I was really just trying to move and get it loose so I could get back in the game if I needed to.”
“Will couldn’t push off on his plant foot,” said Brandon coach Tyler Peterson, who was Mississippi’s offensive coordinator. “He is graduating next week, enrolling early at Mississippi State and was going to be able to get in some bowl practices with State so we weren’t going to play him any more.”
But Madison Central’s Jimmy Holiday, the other quarterback on Mississippi’s roster, was injured. Holiday was smothered after a short run with 8 minutes to play in the game and had to helped off the field with his right leg dragging, an ankle injury.
“Will wanted to go back in,” Peterson said. “He wanted to go back in and win the game. He’s a competitor and is highly motivated. The trainers said Jimmy was through, done for the game so it was in Will’s hands.”
Rogers led Mississippi on an 11-play, 70-yard drive and hit Trip Wilson of Tupelo for a 12-yard touchdown on fourth and 3. Gavin Gaudin of Northwest Rankin kicked the extra point for a 10-10 tie with a 2:04 to play.
Jevon Banks of Olive Branch blocked an Alabama field goal attempt with 42 seconds to play to send the game into overtime. Alabama won the overtime toss and elected to play defense first.
“I told my guys “Let’s just go score,’ ‘ Rogers said. “I felt good about the way we moved the ball on the last possession and I knew we were going to score.”
So Rogers limped back out there. After Janari Dean of South Panola ran twice for 4 yards, Rogers hit Dean on a swing pass on the left side and Dean ran to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Gaudin made the extra point for a 17-10 lead.
Alabama scored a touchdown on second down, but Armondous Cooley of Wayne County blocked the extra point to give Mississippi the victory. It was Mississippi’s third straight win and fourth in the last five meetings.
“It just shows how great of football we play in the state of Mississippi,” Rogers said. “We play tough teams week in and week out and we have some of the best talent in the state of Mississippi.”
Offensive linemen Davion Carter of Pearl and Dylan Spencer of Madison Central and H-back Ahmad Johnson of Pelahatchie were instrumental to helping Mississippi move the ball in the fourth quarter and overtime. Rogers completed 10 of 16 passes for 66 yards. Holiday completed 3 of 5 passes for 23 yards and ran 12 times for 13 yards. Ashton Nickelberry of Brandon caught three passes for 23 yards. Gaudin kicked a 31-yard field goal and two extra points.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Peterson said. “We had played three quarters and hadn’t scored. But the guys weren’t down. Their body language was positive. They were upbeat. And we came back. Will showed what a great player and leader he is.”