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Freeze to headline foundation banquet

NATCHEZ — Hugh Freeze will wind down the 2013 recruiting class Wednesday, but his tour of Mississippi is far from over.

And Freeze has Natchez marked on his calendar for Feb. 28, as the Ole Miss head football coach will be the guest speaker at this year’s National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame 32nd Annual Awards Banquet.

“Ticket sales have skyrocketed,” said Freddie Sandel, the organization’s current president. “All of our tickets were sold a month before the banquet. We have Ole Miss fans calling, and we don’t have tickets.”

The Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame hosts its awards banquet each February at the Eola Hotel to honor six local high school athletes. One football player from Adams County Christian School, Cathedral School, Ferriday High School, Natchez High School, Trinity Episcopal Day School and Vidalia High School will be awarded scholarship money for their contributions academically, athletically and in the community.

Head coaches at each school will nominate their athlete of honor, and a committee headed by Copiah-Lincoln Community College Natchez Campus Vice President Teresa Busby will select first-, second- and third-place finishers for scholarship award money. The first-place finisher will receive $3,000 in funds, followed by $2,250 for the second-place finisher and $1,750 for the third-lace finisher.

Fourth- through sixth-place finishers will receiver $1,000 each. The names of the athletes are not given to the selection committee; their lists of qualifications are all the committee sees. Six junior varsity players will also be honored at the banquet, and the organization will recognize two adults for its Distinguished American and Contributor to Amateur Football awards.

The scholarship money is funded by contributions as well as the organizations annual Joe Fortunato Celebrity Golf Classic each spring. This year’s tournament is scheduled for May 4.

“The whole (organization) is geared toward young people that have made significant contributions to the sport, classroom and community,” Sandel said. “We want to recognize that group.”

Having a household name like Freeze will also make the night extra-special for area athletes, Sandel said.

“It’s great for the community that he’s coming, but more importantly, it’s great for the athletes, both at the high school and junior varsity level,” Sandel said. “When we get a great speaker, it helps a lot.”