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Close student athletes receive top honors at HOF banquet

Cathedral High School’s Mark Iles receives the top student scholarship award of $3,000 at the Miss-Lou chapter of the National Football Foundation’s 34th annual awards banquet Thursday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Cathedral High School’s Mark Iles receives the top student scholarship award of $3,000 at the Miss-Lou chapter of the National Football Foundation’s 34th annual awards banquet Thursday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — At the conclusion of the 34th annual Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, good friends Mark Iles and Alex Miller saw their competitive high school career reach its climax.

As Trinity Episcopal Day School’s Miller was announced as the runner-up, receiving $2,250 in scholarship money, Iles’ name followed as the top award winner at the banquet.

“Our academic careers our entire life has been pretty much equal,” said Miller, who was proud of his friend Iles. “It’s not too big of an upset to me. I’ve known him my entire life.”

Like Miller, Cathedral High School’s Iles was gracious and humble in accepting the $3,000 scholarship Thursday night.

“I really wasn’t expecting it actually,” Iles said. “I had the second highest GPA.”

The moment was so cherished by Miller that he said it might have taken over his top senior memory, which was getting to receive the snap at quarterback for the Trinity Saints.

“Not too many starting right tackles ever get to play quarterback in their career, but I’d say this may top that a little bit,” Miller said.

Adams County Christian School’s Parker Rymer received third place, earning a $1,750 scholarship, while Natchez High School’s Sidney Davis, Ferriday High School’s Allen Cummings and Vidalia High School’s Johnny Anderson each earned $1,000 in scholarship money.

Before serving as the banquet’s guest speaker, Alcorn State University head coach Jay Hopson was greeted by Alcorn State fans, raving about the Braves 10-3 season that culminated in a SWAC championship.

“Anytime you’re in Natchez, it’s great to be among a lot of friends and family,” Hopson said. “It was a great year, and we’ve enjoyed it because it’s been a great experience. It’s a new year, so we’ve got to put our hardhats back on and get back to work.”

Richard Adams accepted the Contributor to Amateur Football Award on behalf of the late Clyde Adams, and used the opportunity to talk about his dad as an avenue to praise the student athletes present.

“I know dad wouldn’t let me leave here before telling all of you congratulations,” Richard said.

Billy “Porky” Smith was honored with the Distinguished American Award, fighting off emotions as he accepted the award.

“Look at the names in this book,” said Porky, pausing while trying to keep his emotions in check. “I’m just a small town country boy. I don’t deserve to be in here with names like Joe Fortunato.”

Also honored at the banquet were junior high players Adams County Christan School’s Caden Gillespie, Cathedral’s Ben Foster, Delta Charter’s Fisher Hall, Ferriday’s Deandre Taylor, Natchez Middle School’s Vincent Carter Jr., Trinity Episcopal’s Sahmaad Grayson and Vidalia Junior High’s Nathan Nations.