By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
SALTILLO – Andrew Soper will do anything to get an extra couple of yards, even if it means taking a lick.
When carrying the football against Baldwyn, Soper lowered his shoulders and gained a yard or two more instead of running out of bounds. Those extra yards helped Saltillo move down the field quicker in their 40-7 rivalry win over the Bearcats.
“I just do what I have to do to gain yards,” Soper said. “I find a hole, hit it as hard as I can and if somebody’s hanging off of me I just keep going.”
Saltillo coach Pat Byrd likes the grittiness of his quarterback, but at the same time wants him to be cautious with the ball.
“When you go down in this 5A schedule you’ve got to be smart with it,” Byrd said. “He’s getting better and better and more in tune with what we’re trying to do.”
Soper racked up triple-digit yardage both rushing and passing against the Bearcats. He carried the ball 14 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns while totaling 167 yards on 7 of 12 passing.
His first of two touchdowns in the air may have been the most impressive play of the night. Pinned on their own 10-yard line after the opening kickoff of the second half, Soper found Tyler Tollison to his left.
Tollison was hit on the Baldwyn sideline, but never touched the ground. The junior kept going and 90 yards later the Tigers (2-1) increased their lead to 27-0.
“I rolled over the top of him and then I put my hand down and went north and south with it,” said Tollison.
Saltillo capitalized on miscues by the Bearcats (1-2) early in the game. Jaquoyle Pounds recovered a fumble on an attempted double reverse toss which led to Soper’s first rushing touchdown run a minute later.
AJ Rye hit two field goals and Tollison added a 17-yard scoring run to help the Tigers lead 20-0 at halftime.
Baldwyn, the Daily Journal’s 4th ranked small school, was without the services of playmaker Duke Upshaw due to a thigh bruise he suffered last week against Booneville.
“We’re just trying to make sure we get him well for later in the season,” Bearcats coach Michael Gray said.
Tre Davis’s 30-yard fumble return was the only points of the night for Baldwyn.