By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Losing 31 players from the past two seasons due to graduation has left three-time MHSAA state champion Booneville High Blue Devils looking a little green.
“Last year we had some older kids and were rather inexperienced,” said second-year Blue Devils head coach Mike Mattox. “This year, we’re just young and inexperienced in a lot of positions.”
While the Blue Devils may not have its fair share of experienced veterans – only six returning starters on both sides of the ball – their coaching staff has plenty of experience. Mattox and his current staff spent nearly two whole decades as assistants to the state’s winningest coach, Jim Drewry.
“We’re going to do what we’ve always done: We’re going to take the kids that we have and we’ll adjust our offense and defense to their strengths,” Mattox said. “We’ve done that since I have been here – for 18 or 19 years.
“We got a good, young nucleus.”
Mattox and Co. will be doing that against familiar and not-so-familiar opponents in the fall.
“We still got Ripley. Kossuth has got 20-something seniors,” rattled off Mattox. “Belmont has got their fullback back.
“Kossuth, Belmont and Ripley are always tough. … (Alcorn) Central has a new coaching staff and I’m sure they will get more kids out.”
Holly Springs will be a newcomer to MHSAA’s Division 1-3A as Booneville’s division nemesis, Corinth, moves up to Class 4A.
“You know Holly Springs is going to have good athletes,” said Mattox, whose squad is coming off a 5-6 campaign and first-round playoff appearance in 2010.
The Blue Devils will also happen to have some pretty good athletes suiting up for them. Xzavier “Nupie” Rogers, a state powerlifting champion, returns, as does basketball player Jordan Miller, state track meet sprinter Tracy Billups, and baseball player Kurt Volking, among other talented athletes, including All-Division 1-3A nose guard Casey Farris.
“This year will be a tougher season on me because I’m one of the only few backs that we have,” Rogers said before his team’s Tuesday evening practice session.
But Mattox says – as any football coach would – until these guys start wearing full pads (which will be Saturday), who knows just how good his team actually is.
“Right now, until you put the pads on, you can’t tell what a kid is going to do,” Mattox said. “I don’t care.
“They can be the fastest thing out here; they can be the biggest looking thing out here. But until you put the pads on, you don’t know what they’re going to do.”