Bearcats, Blue Devils renew rivalry tonight

By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal

Baldwyn and Booneville don’t have to be in the same division to maintain one of Mississippi’s top rivalries. The Bearcats and Blue Devils don’t even have to be in the same classification.
Both Baldwyn coach Michael Gray and Booneville coach Mike Mattox, whose teams square off tonight, can tell plenty of stories from the series.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re 3A or 2A. It means something to both sides’ kids,” Mattox said. “It’s a rivalry game because of proximity. A lot of our kids go to church with their kids and them with our kids. It’s always going to be that way.”
Gray was a Baldwyn quarterback and Mattox has spent two decades with the Blue Devils. One recalled story came from the mid-90s as two cheerleaders even squared off at McDonald’s in Baldwyn prior to the game.
The Prentiss County schools meet at 7:30 p.m. at Baldwyn’s Latimer Park. In two other games tonight involving Northeast Mississippi teams, Falkner plays at Walnut in the Joe Bowl while Hamilton plays Houlka at Okolona High’s field.
Booneville and Baldwyn are coming off season-opening wins. The Blue Devils beat Walnut, 35-15, and the Bearcats defeated Kossuth, 22-6.
“We’ve got to contain their speed. To me, that’s the best Baldwyn team I’ve seen since the (2008) state championship team,” Mattox said.
Coming off wins
Baldwyn’s last win in the series came that season, 26-0, but Booneville has won the last three, two under Mattox.
The Bearcats didn’t do a whole lot offensively in a defensive win at Kossuth. Freshman Duke Upshaw had a rushing score and a 31-yard pick-6. Laquintez Upshaw returned on on-side kick 65 yards for a score and the Bearcats had a safety.
“Defensively we couldn’t have asked our kids to play any better,” Gray said. “Offensively, we’ve got to move the ball better.”
In Booneville’s win over Walnut, sophomore quarterback Jack Simpson ran in a pair of TDs in a 6 for 10 night with 131 yards passing and a TD.
Senior A.J. Grizzard threw a 45-yard touchdown on his only attempt and Zeus Rogers rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown.
“They do things really well. I thought (Simpson) played really well. It was methodical,” Gray said. “Nobody really stood out. They just played really well as a team and scored some points.”
brandon.speck@journalinc.com