Itawamba County Times
BALDWYN – Coach Michael Gray and his Baldwyn Bearcats relied on non-offensive touchdowns to beat Mantachie 34-21 on Friday night in the Division 1-2A opener.
Martel Brown returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and defensive lineman Shaquille Shinault scored twice on fumble recoveries. One the senior pounced on in the end zone during the second quarter and another he took 60 yards to the house in the third.
“We really emphasize all three phases,” Gray said. “Any time you get touchdowns other than on offense, it is a huge plus.”
Baldwyn (4-3, 1-0) got the opening kickoff and running backs Duke Upshaw and Laquintez Upshaw chewed up yardage. Quarterback Corbin Scott later took to the air and connected with three different receivers before finding Devonta Gates for an 18-yard touchdown.
Mantachie (4-3, 0-1) responded two series later when, after a Baldwyn fumble, Dustin Carrell found Nick Burns for a 27-yard score to tie the game.
The stalemate lasted all of 13 seconds as Brown weaved his way 80 yards to pay dirt on the ensuing kick return.
Later, in the second quarter, Baldwyn Punter Clayton Gray pinned the Mustangs on their 1-yard line. A fumble on the exchange between Carrell and his running back put the ball on the ground and Shinault pounced on it to put the Bearcats up by two scores.
Andrew Malone led a tandem of running backs that helped Mantachie embark on a six-play, 53-yard drive that was eventually capped by a 29-yard Cory Smith run. The Bearcats came right back, however, when Duke Upshaw punctuated a long drive with a 6-yard run to give Baldwyn a 28-14 halftime lead.
Reversal of fortune
The Mustangs appeared to get a huge break midway through the third when Burns recovered a fumble at the Bearcat 35, but three plays later Carrell lost the ball under pressure and Shinault picked it up and rumbled the distance for the score.
Mantachie added the final points in the fourth quarter when Carrell connected with Chris Bruff for a 22-yard TD.
“We thought going into this game between us and Mantachie that it was going to be big,” Gray said. “Whoever came away with the win was going to have the momentum and a chance to win the division.”