By Kedrick Storey
BOONEVILLE – The season opener between Booneville and Walnut started with a bang, settled into a lull and ended with the Blue Devils grinding out a 21-14 victory under hot, muggy conditions.
Booneville coach Mike Mattox called it a “battle of attrition.”
“Only thing that helped us, I think we had a little bit more depth than they had,” said Mattox. “Walnut played played extremely hard, but I thought our kids sucked it up when they had to.”
Trailing 14-7 with 2:33 to play in the third quarter, Booneville forced the first of four Walnut turnovers. With the Wildcats driving inside Boonevile’s 25-yard line, Elijah Tate stepped in front of a Will Quinn pass and returned it to the Booneville 43.
Five plays later, James Christian capped the drive with a 3-yard run, knotting the game at 14, just seconds into the fourth. Booneville then capitalized on a Walnut fumble, as senior QB Jack Simpson hit Chase Calvary for a 27-yard go-ahead score with 9:56 remaining.
Christian rushed for 128 yards on 19 carries. Simpson accounted for two scores, including a 1-yard TD run in first quarter.
“We started out slow, but we showed some fight,” said Simpson. “I’m proud of that.”
Turning Point: Boone-ville’s Elijah Tate intercepted Walnut’s Will Quinn with 2:30 to play in third quarter. Walnut would end the game with four turnovers in their final five possessions.
Point Man: Senior James Christian rushed for 128 of Booneville’s 193 rushing yards.
Talking Point: “We ran a play to the 2-yard line and with so many guys cramping – going in and out – I didn’t have a receiver on the field, so we got called for having six men on the line of scrimmage. That backed us up to the 25 and we had to force something.” Walnut coach John Meeks on a key play before their first of four turnovers to end the game.
• Booneville outgained Walnut 268-126.
• Dandy Dozen Armani Linton was limited to 43 yards on 17 carries. His second quarter score put Walnut ahead 14-7 at the half.
• Monterio Hunt scored on a 75-yard kick return in the first quarter for Walnut.