Remembering Frankie, a 112-pound nose tackle
(People ask me all the time what was my favorite event to cover: The Masters, the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Final Four? My answer nearly always surprises: No, it was the Mississippi Class 1A State Championship game. And it was. They will play it again Friday morning at 11 a.m.: French Camp vs. Smithville. I wouldn’t miss it, even if I wasn’t doing the color commentary for the TV broadcast. It will be a different vantage point. I usually walk the sidelines, so I can find stories like the one that follows from the 2002 championship game.)
The State Championship program lists Weir senior Frankie Jobe at 115 pounds.
Jobe actually weighs 112 pounds – after a good meal.
The program lists Jobe as a cornerback. He also plays outside linebacker and nose guard. That’s right: When Weir lines up in a five-man front, the 5-foot, 3-inch Jobe moves to nose guard. Presumably, if he can’t dash around the center, he just darts through his legs.
Don’t laugh. The kid’s a player. “Frankie’s so quick, people can’t block him,” says Weir defensive coach Joey Tompkins. “He’s strong, too. He bench presses twice his weight. He’s one of our best defensive players, one of our leaders. He’s all heart and muscle.”
Yes, and Friday afternoon, at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, Frankie Jobe’s heart was broken. There he was in a huddle at midfield. Regulation time had elapsed in one of the most marvelously played games in this writer’s memory. Puckett and Weir, playing for the 1A State Championship, were tied 14-14.
Weir coach Junior Graham was going over overtime plans with his players.
“Frankie, can you lift your arm, son?” Graham asked, looking at Jobe, who had tears welling in his eyes.
Jobe tried to lift his arm but could not.
“Frankie, you can’t tackle if you can’t lift the arm,” Graham said.
Jobe played all season with a shoulder separation – 14 games, all Weir victories. Nearly every time he crashed into somebody with his right shoulder, the shoulder would come out of its socket. With some help, Jobe usually popped it back in and played on. Not this time.
So Jobe watched while Puckett scored a touchdown – by inches – and an extra point to go ahead 21-14. And he watched while Weir scored a touchdown and came up short – by inches – on the 2-point conversion. He watched Puckett’s wild celebration. He watched his and his teammates’ championship dreams shattered, 21-20.
“You put so much into something, and then you come up two inches short,” Jobe would say. “It just hurts so bad to come so far, work so hard – and then lose. It’s like somebody just stuck a big ol’ knife in my heart.”
It has been my good fortune to report on Super Bowls, World Series, Final Fours, the Olympics, The Masters and U.S. Opens. None of those – not one – has ever surpassed Mississippi’s Class 1A football State Championship for drama, passion and pure entertainment. It remains my favorite event of the year.
This one bordered on the best ever. You had two evenly matched and splendidly coached teams. You had 4,200 fans – several times as many people as the populations of both towns combined – hanging on every play. You had players swapping lick after lick after turn-your-head-away lick. Several times, you’d say to yourself, “He’ll never get up after that one.” And then he would.
You had gifted athletes like Puckett’s junior flash Terrell Jackson – remember that name – and Weir’s Charles Docher, who ran hard, blocked harder and tackled harder still from his fullback and safety positions.
You had razzle-dazzle, too. You had Puckett facing third-and-goal from the 4-yard line in overtime. You had Puckett lining up in the old swinging gate formation, with quarterback Mario Robinson in shotgun formation and nine of his teammates lined up far to his left. And you had Robinson darting to the right and then diving, spectacularly, into the end zone.
You had so many thrills, yet so much agony. You had Robinson, the winning quarterback, in tears, describing his leaping touchdown.
“I saw an opening, and I took off and then leaped,” he said. “It felt like an angel just grabbed me and lifted me over the line. I can’t believe it. Puckett is the Mississippi state champion. Finally! It’s not a dream anymore; it’s a dream come true.”
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