5 days, 2 games: Walnut's stern test

Playing two football games in five days will certainly test Walnut High’s toughness, especially considering who the Wildcats will face tonight.
When their game against Kossuth was postponed to Monday night, the Wildcats were faced with the daunting task of taking on the Daily Journal’s top-ranked Class 3A team, Booneville, just four days later.
“The quick turnaround sort of puts us in a bind,” Walnut head coach Timmy Moore said after his team defeated Kossuth 33-20 on Monday night.
The Journal’s No. 1-ranked small school heads to Boone-ville today for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff – if the field is playable.
(Check NEMS360.com today for updates on any possible schedule changes.)
“Looking back, it probably wasn’t the best thing to do,” Moore explained about the decision to play on Monday, “but with the information we had at the time, we felt like it was the best decision.”
Regardless, tonight’s game should be a good one.
“You better believe it,” Booneville head coach Jim Drewry said about the notion that Class 2A Walnut can compete with the bigger schools. “No. 1, they’re a solid ballclub both offensively and defensively, and in the kicking game.
“They got great speed in the backfield, especially with (Shaquille) Perry. They got a big, strong kid at quarterback (Hunter Doyle).
“They are a seasoned ballclub because they went to the second and third round of the playoffs last year.”
With 17 of 22 starters back from last year’s 10-win team, this year’s Wildcats are indeed a talented, veteran bunch. But can the Wildcats on short rest play with an undefeated Booneville team (4-0) that is coming off a bye week?
“We’ve got to come out with intensity in the first half,” Moore said. “If we don’t give a big-time effort in the first half, we’ll be in trouble.
“We’ve got to be able to put four quarters together. So, this will be a big test for us.”
Moore described Booneville as a “solid football team” on both sides of the ball.
“Booneville is a very solid and very well-coached football team,” Moore said. “They can be explosive on offense. They have a good offensive line and their defense is solid.”
The Blue Devils, however, have been suffering from the injury bug, as five starters have gone down with injuries.
“We’re not the healthiest ballclub right now,” Drewry said. “Hopefully, we can get some people well.”
Walnut is relatively healthy, even though receiver/defensive back Dominic Steele went down with a wrist injury in the first half of Monday’s game against Kossuth. He was able to return for the second half.
“Other than that, we came out pretty healthy,” Moore said.
The key for Booneville may be simply slowing down Perry, the team’s all-purpose player who can score from anywhere on the field.
“We hope we can slow him down,” Drewry said. “He’s got size, speed, quickness and good hands.
“All we gotta try to do is slow him down. There’s no way to stop him.”

Tupelo at Columbus
Golden Wave coach Eric Collins is anxious to see how his team responds after a 13-day layoff with its trip to Columbus.
“That off week makes for a long time without playing,” he said. “We lifted weights and worked to get better.”
Tupelo (0-3) looks for its first victory in its Division 1-6A opener against the Falcons (1-3).
“Their team is a lot like us; they are inexperienced as well,” Collins said. “They are playing a lot of first-year players like us.”
The Falcons’ starting offense features six sophomores and a freshman. One of those sophomores is quarterback Cedric Jackson.
“(Jackson) is going to be a good one,” Wave defensive coordinator Lamar Aldridge said. “They’ve got a lot of good, young players.”

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or at john.wilbert@djournal.com; Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or gene.phelps@djournal.com. Kedrick Storey (Southern Sentinel) contributed to this story.

John Wilbert and Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal