Winona Christian football coach Junior Graham has coached in a lot of all-star games over the years. He will coach in another one this year.
Graham will join five of his players in the MAIS Class 1A-2A-3A All-Star football game a Jackson Prep on Friday.
Joining Graham at the game will be Choyce Diffey, Latham Hill, Reed Roberts and Ben Pinkard. Thomas Costilow was selected to the game but will not get to participate in the game because of an injury.
Graham also coached in the game last year as a defensive coach but will call the offense this year as Marshall Academy’s Barrett Donahoe will be the head coach. While in the public school league, Graham coached in the Bernard Blackwell North-South All-star game and three times in the Mississippi-Alabama All-star game, including being the head coach in 2014.
“I’ve coached in a lot of them,” Graham said. “It’s unique because of the way the players are selected and then the way we draft the teams. I really enjoyed it last year and had a good time. I’m looking forward to it.”
Graham said the four players going can easily play multiple positions or wherever they are needed.
“They are a group of kids going that can play multiple positions,” Graham said. “All of those kids played multiple positions for us. All of those kids had really good years and any year, they would be worthy of playing in the game.”
Leading the way is the multi-talented Choyce Diffey, who played multiple positions for the Stars, ending the season with 13 interceptions and nearly 1,000 yards receiving.
“He may have had as good a season as any one person I have ever had,” Graham said. “If I have had a better one, it would be Dizenzo Miller. We didn’t plan on him playing both sides but as we started preparing for the year, he looked better and better at safety and ended up with 13 interceptions. He scored every way you can score except for a punt return. He had a really special year.”
Also joining Diffey in the multi-talented category is Reed Roberts.
“I would have to count how many positions he played for us,” Graham said. “He played every skill positions and four or five defensive positions. His strength is he is a really smart kid but he’s more athletic than most people think. When you are an intelligent kid, you can do multiple things. He also had to kick and punt for us when Choyce was banged up this year. His first punt was 53 yards. He’s a diversified kid and when you deal with intelligent kids, you can do a lot with those guys.”
Another versatile player for the Stars is Latham Hill, Graham said.
“He’s a guy that will be all-district for four years in a row and all-district in four different positions,” Graham said. “He’s another highly intelligent kid. He really flourished at defensive end this year. He also had to play some H-back for us on offense and some wide receiver. He had one of the biggest catches of the year with the two-point play that beat Carroll. There were some games that he didn’t come off the field. He gave us a lot of flexibility.”
The final player making the team is Ben Pinkard, who will be a defensive player.
“Ben is a guy who came off a knee injury last year and we moved him around on defense a lot this year,” Graham said. “He give you a lot of flexibility. He can play outside linebacker, can walk down at defensive end and can play a one-tech at defensive tackle. He’s just a gritty kid. If you judge him by the cover, you are going to miss a good football player.”
Also named to the team is Thomas Costilow who will be able to be at the practices and all the events surrounding the game but won’t play.
“Thomas is one of those guys that doesn’t come around a lot at a place like Winona Christian,” Graham said. “He’s big and fast and really strong. When we lost him, it really set up back. But he will be with us the whole week. They don’t take a manager but he will be my manager. We will be joined at the hip all week long. He will be at all the practices and there will be a lot of junior college coaches there who will get a chance to put their eyes on him.”
The Class 1A-2A-3A game will be played at 2:30 p.m. at Jackson Prep while the 4A-5A-6A game will be played immediately afterward.