Booneville, Baldwyn rivalry renewed

The rivalry continues.
Despite playing in different classifications for quite some time now, Baldwyn vs. Booneville in football is still a pretty big deal.
“It’s always been a big rivalry game since I’ve been here,” said Booneville head coach Mike Mattox, a Kossuth native who has spent nearly 20 years at the largest Prentiss County school. “Baldwyn is always well-coached and has speed everywhere.
“You can throw out the records because it’s still a big rivalry.”
For the record, though, Baldwyn is 0-1 on the season after losing to Kossuth, a MHSAA Division 1-3A foe of Booneville, on Friday night. The Blue Devils are 1-0 after defeating Walnut, a Division 1-2A opponent of Baldwyn, on the road in Week 1.
While the Daily Journal’s fourth-ranked small school lost 31-7 at home to the Journal’s second-ranked Class 3A team and Booneville, tied for the fifth spot with Nettleton in the Journal’s rankings, looked impressive in avenging a one-point loss from last season, it’s difficult to say that the Blue Devils will walk all over the Bearcats tonight at Tiger Stadium.
“It’s a short week this week and it looks like it’s going to be hot this week with the temperatures,” Mattox said from his office Monday afternoon. “It’s a good start anytime you win your opening ballgame.
“ It’s certainly a plus, but we still have a lot of things to correct personnel-wise and scheme-wise. We’ll make the corrections, though.”
The relatively young Bearcats, on the other hand, may take a “trial-by-fire” approach in the early going.
“We’re trying our best to play as many folks as we can based on that,” Bearcats head coach Michael Gray said of his team’s maturity and experience. “We’re trying to get as many guys ready as possible.”
And a coaching veteran such as Mattox certainly understands the significance of the first two weeks of a season.
“We saw some good things and some bad things,” Mattox said about his team’s 33-0 shutout of Walnut. “As a coach, the most improvement you will see from a team is from the first ballgame to the second ballgame.”
The Bearcats hope to finally get their running game going, as they’re playing without their top two leading rushers from a year ago.
“It’s getting there,” Gray said of his team’s running game. “We were without our starting fullback (Bradley Boose) Friday night. We hope to have him back, and we hope we can continue to progress with these younger guys.
“Hopefully, he’ll (Boose) give us an extra punch.”
The Blue Devils’ feature back, 5-foot-3, 124-pound Xzavier “Nupie” Rogers, was at about 70 percent on Monday after spraining his right ankle, said Mattox.
With a lack of depth at the running back and skill positions, says Mattox, it’s especially important that Blue Devils starters like Rogers remain healthy.
The Bearcats, meanwhile, have their own health issues. Safety/running back Tevin Price (knee) will be out this week, and he’s not expected back until division play begins at the end of September.
Despite winning the last two games in the rivalry, Mattox doesn’t believe the Bearcats program is down in terms of talent.
“The people who say Baldwyn is down are the people not playing them,” said the Booneville coach. “We also play them in junior high and we know how good they are.”

Baldwyn vs. Booneville
THE BUZZ: The Prentiss County rivalry resumes, as Booneville carries a two-game winning streak into tonight’s game at NEMCC’s Tiger Stadium. … The Blue Devils scored 28 of their 37 points in last year’s meeting off turnovers. … Booneville QB Dylan Henley completed 5 of 11 passes for 111 yards and a TD, while rushing 9 times for 82 yards and 2 scores in last week’s win over Walnut. … Baldwyn QB Walker Wildmon completed 6 of 13 passes for 139 yards and a TD, while rushing for 23 yards in last week’s loss to Kossuth.

THE BUZZ: The Joe Bowl is an annual matchup between these northern Tippah County schools, and it’s named after Joe Horton, who once coached at both schools. Walnut has won the last 6 meetings. This is Eagles coach Ben Ashley’s first Joe Bowl.

John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal