Prep football: In early going, experience trumps youth

Only two weeks into the season, youth is learning tough lessons while experience has paid off.
Traditional powers Baldwyn, Corinth, Ripley and Shannon have been using a lot of young players, and that seemed to show in Week 2’s games – all losses.
“We just gotta get better,” said Baldwyn head coach Michael Gray, whose team dropped to 1-1 on the season after Thursday night’s 37-27 loss to Booneville. “Fundamentally and technique-wise we got to get better. Attitude-wise they got to get better, based on when something starts going bad, they gotta handle adversity. They gotta be able to wipe that out and stay in the game mentally.”
Baldwyn (1-1), which fell to No. 2 behind Calhoun City in the Daily Journal’s small schools’ rankings, will try to get above .500 at rival Saltillo (1-1) on Friday night.
New Albany, which hasn’t won eight games in a season since 2005, is an impressive 2-0 now thanks to the contributions of 21 seniors.
“This group of guys, the whole entire team, it’s a joy to work with them,” Bulldogs coach Ron Price said after Friday night’s 49-0 thumping of rival Ripley. “These are the nights you dream about: playing your archrival and the stadium’s packed out.
“And when the scoreboard at the end of the night says you got more points than them, it’s a lot of fun. So, we’re going to enjoy this one.”
Ripley, which was tied for second with Corinth in the Daily Journal’s Class 3A rankings last week, trailed New Albany 35-0 at halftime.
“New Albany is better than I thought they were,” first-year Tigers head coach Grady McCluskey said of this week’s third-ranked large school. “They got a pretty good football team. They’re strong up front. They got good skill people. They’re sound.
“And we’re kind of rebuilding, and we’re not as strong as they are. We don’t have as good as skill people right now. But that’s no excuse for missed tackles, not lining up right and jumping offsides.”
Ripley (1-1) will look to get back on track with an away contest at 0-2 Lewisburg.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will continue their customary early-season slate against Division 1-3A teams on Friday night at home versus Corinth, which has dropped out of this week’s 3A rankings following a 13-6 home loss to Senatobia.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Price said after Friday’s win. “We start out with the three best teams in that division for the last few years.
“I don’t know much about Corinth right now. They didn’t play last week (in Week 1). … We’ll start focusing on them tomorrow (Saturday).”
With losses to West Point and Memphis East (Tenn.) by 25 and 28 points, respectively – granted, both of those teams are loaded with talent – Shannon (0-2) has now slipped out of the Journal’s large schools’ rankings after starting out at No. 3 in the preseason. The Red Raiders have a bye this week before resuming their schedule at Corinth on Sept. 10.
“We are young in a lot of critical areas,” Shannon coach Chad Cook said after Friday’s loss to Memphis East. “We were missing three linemen, and that hurts us both ways.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com

Sept. 3 Schedule
Pontotoc at Aberdeen
Alcorn Central at Walnut
New Hope at Amory
Baldwyn at Saltillo
Belmont at Tishomingo Co.
Center Hill at Booneville
Ackerman at Bruce
Kemper Academy at Calhoun Academy
Water Valley at Calhoun City
East Webster at Vardaman
Falkner at Marshall Academy
Kossuth at North Pontotoc
Nettleton at Hamilton
Hatley at Thrasher
Holly Springs at Byhalia
Houlka at South Pontotoc
Houston at Okolona
TCPS at H.W. Byers
Tupelo at IAHS
Lafayette at Oxford
Mantachie at Mooreville
Corinth at New Albany
Wheeler at New Site
Ripley at Lewisburg
Heritage at Starkville Academy
Starkville at Meridian
West Point at Columbus

John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal