News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

All-star coaches feeling the pressure to win

By Bradley Handwerger 340-2462

MOBILE — Bill Clark knows pressure.

After all, as Prattville's head coach, he guided his team unscathed through the Class 6A season and playoffs, defeating the nationally respected Hoover program for the title.

Leslie Peters also knows pressure.

He has spent 34 years coaching at East Marion High in Mississippi, winning two state championships and a total of 248 games.

Saturday night in Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the two will go head-to-head when Clark leads Alabama and Peters manages Mississippi in the 20th annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic. Game time is 7.

And, not surprisingly, both said they feel pressure heading into the game.

But it's for different reasons.

For Clark, Alabama has won eight of the past 10 games and owns a 13-6 record against Mississippi.

"There's always pressure we put on ourselves, but it's important," Clark said.

"It's important to our state, to our coaches, to our coaches' association. That's what I told our team. Sometimes we may not be the most talented, but I hope we play together as a team. It's important to us."

Peters says he has pressure because his state hasn't done well against its border rival.

"It's a pressure to win, but we just want to represent and have a good time," Peters said. "Alabama has dominated the series."

Alabama is led by Decatur High linebacker and Alabama signee Rolando McClain, Prattville quarterback and Vanderbilt signee Larry Smith and UMS-Wright receiver and Alabama signee Brandon Gibson.

Mississippi will counter with Florida State signee Ty Easterling, a 6-foot-1 receiver, and a bevy of beefy offensive lineman who have signed to play at Auburn, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi, among others.

But talent alone doesn't win games, Peters said. He remembers the game in 1993, another one he coached.

Alabama had Dameyune Craig, who went on to play quarterback at Auburn, and Freddie Kitchens, who went on to play quarterback at Alabama.

Mississippi, according to Peters, didn't have anyone. Mississippi still won 17-6.

"I know they've got Prattville and Hoover, the class acts of Alabama, and they've got kids from those schools," Peters said. "We understand the situation, and it's just going to be a great football game."

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