BY BRANDON SPECK
BALDWYN – Duke Upshaw exploded onto the North Mississippi football scene as an eighth grader with a grown-man build and breakaway ability.
Nothing has changed. He’s still one of the area’s most talented players, still has a projected huge role for the Bearcats and has played a major role in leading Baldwyn to a state basketball championship.
But there is more to the Bearcats.
“There’s a lot of good players around him. He had such a huge impact his eighth grade year. But there are a lot of good players around him,” Baldwyn coach Michael Gray said. “Obviously with him on the field, it makes us better, allows us to do more things, but we just can’t depend on him solely.”
A handful of hobbling injuries put the clamps on last season’s plan to use Upshaw more at quarterback – he played in eight games. The plan is back this season for him to get 20-plus snaps a game.
Gray said the sophomore doesn’t have a me-first philosophy and teammates aren’t solely depending on him.
“They just play football. It takes 11,” Gray said. “This is the one sport where I honestly believe one person cannot dominate the whole thing, unless you’re just some massive defensive player.”
Senior quarterback Corbin Scott returns. It was all new to him last season and experience has to be acquired, not taught. Scott put it a lot of work in the summer and has more planned for himself.
He threw 14 TDs, but also 13 picks last season. He said the speed of the game took some time to get used to. Gray said the experience in pressure situations should help.
“I’m really going to work on reading the outside backers. I’ve gotten a lot better at that I think,” Scott said. “We’ve got some new receivers in and I really want to get them on key.”
He’ll have an extra weapon more often in senior Devonta Gates.
Gray said they will ask a lot of Gates, who has added to his 6-foot, 240-pound frame and will play multiple spots, running back, defensive end and linebacker – even tight end if need be.
“I’ve been working out all summer to get ready,” Gates said. “I think I’m ready.”