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JCHS players reflect on All-Star game

fayette — Jefferson County High School’s Cody Gilchrist knew he had performed well in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star game in Gulfport, but he did not know he outshined all of his teammates and counterparts.

Gilchrist was all over the field in the game played Dec. 22. He made more than 10 tackles, broke up a pass and forced a fumble and earned defensive MVP honors.

“I really didn’t realize I had played at the level of MVP,” he said. “I just played how a linebacker should play. It was a great honor to get it, and it made me feel like I showed my coaches the work they put in to make me better was working.”

Jefferson County was well represented on the defensive side of the ball in the game.

Not only did Gilchrist get plenty of playing time, senior defensive back Olajawon O’Neal did as well, and he made a handful of tackles and broke up two passes of his own.

But more important than their production, both players represented their school and community well, Tigers’ head coach James Herrington said.

“Words can’t express how proud we are of those guys, and how they went out and represented us,” Herrington said.

Gilchrist said it was a great honor to be selected one of the top players in a game that featured so much talent.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “I can’t lie, it was great to see so much talent. It made me feel great to know that Mississippi has that much talent.”

The South team ended up winning the contest 34-13, and O’Neal said he was glad his team was able to win a game that the North team thought it would win.

“The other team was talking noise the whole week, and our coach told us to keep steady and do our talking with our pads,” he said.

O’Neal was also proud of his friend and teammate for winning MVP.

“I love Cody to death,” O’Neal said. “He’s one of my favorite teammates, and I knew he was going to go all out. He did Jefferson County real well.”

The two Tigers wrapped up their senior seasons with a playoff appearance this year, and the team made the playoffs each year they played.

Gilchrist said his interception return for a touchdown against Trinity this season and a sack he made against Morton High School in the playoffs his sophomore year are highlights of his career.

Both players have aspirations of playing football next year in college, and both are weighing their options on what school to attend.

“I hope we end up playing together again,” O’Neal said.

Herrington knows the two defensive stars will not be on his roster next season, and they will be tough to replace, he said.

“It’s always hard to replace senior guys that have been in the program four years,” he said. “But it’s not about what you take with you. It’s what you leave, and they have left a lot of things that helped them be successful to the guys coming behind them, so we should be OK.”