By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
To say the least, tonight’s Division 1-2A opener between Baldwyn High and Calhoun City High will feature plenty of speed.
“I know their back runs very well, and our team speed has improved over last year,” said Calhoun City head coach Perry Liles. “So that will definitely make for a matchup of speed. It will make the game interesting.”
The Wildcats have sped through the first six weeks of the season, going a perfect 6-0 while outscoring their opponents 245-45 in the process.
Tonight at 7, the Daily Journal’s top-ranked small school hosts fourth-ranked Baldwyn (2-4).
“They got a lot of speed,” said Baldwyn head coach Michael Gray. “Speed is hard to coach against, but it always helps you to have it.
“You can make up for a lot of mistakes because of speed.”
What has also helped Calhoun City in games is its practice habits. The Wildcats often have high-energy practice sessions.
“We try to keep a fast pace,” Liles said. “We don’t really try to do a lot of conditioning. We practice fast and hopefully play fast.
“We do a lot of drills to try to mimic what we do in games. Right now, we’re doing a pretty good job.”
Gray, whose Bearcats club defeated Calhoun City 35-7 at home last year, thinks the Wildcats are a lot better this season.
“To me they’re a lot better because they didn’t lose any kids,” said the Baldwyn coach. “They’re all back from last year’s team. Supposedly they have 10 of 11 starters back on offense. Their quarterback (J.R. Jennings) played in the state championship game two years ago.
“They don’t have any weaknesses. When you turn on the film on a team, you usually say, ‘If we take away this, then we’ll have a chance,’ but they do everything well. They play solid.”
Jennings and wide receiver Demarius Howard have been very impressive so far, according to their head coach.
“The play of our quarterback, J.R. Jennings, has been impressive,” Liles said. “He’s been a leader. He’s been throwing the football and running the football well.
“Demarius Howard has been very impressive.”
Don’t count them out
Despite a change at quarterback – Tanner Gaines graduated in May and Walker Wildmon and Reggie Patterson have been handling the quarterbacking duties – Baldwyn is, perhaps, ahead of where it was last year, Liles pointed out. The Calhoun City coach said the Bearcats were 0-5 entering last year’s Division 1-2A opener.
After last season’s division-opening win against Calhoun City, the Bearcats won their next six games before losing to West Bolivar, 13-12, in the MHSAA Class 2A state quarterfinals. They finished the ’09 season with a 7-6 overall record and were 5-0 in Division 1-2A.
“I don’t think they’re down. … I think Baldwyn is right on track – maybe ahead of last year,” Liles said.
“We did a lot to help them build their confidence last year.”
With that being said, it may not take a whole lot for these two tradition-rich programs to build confidence. They may already have it instilled in them.
“They’ve had a tradition-rich football program down there for years,” Gray said about the talented players that have come through Calhoun City. “People keep wondering where they come from. It’s just the way it is. They just happen to live there.
“It’s like us. I don’t know how to really explain it. It just happens.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.