By Brandon Speck
Baldwyn and Bruce are old friends. Well, they know each other. The two won’t be sharing dinner tonight when the Bearcats go to Calhoun County in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
“It’s developed into a decent little rivalry,” Bruce coach James Ray said. “We know the challenge we’ve got.”
The two have met every year since 2006, the last playoff meeting, with Bruce winning four times.
It is Baldwyn’s stiffest test since a 13-point win on Oct. 4 against Mantachie. Since then, Baldwyn’s margin of victory has been 34.4 points.
Baldwyn was placed in a division that included upstarts and teams trying to reach its level.
“You can only worry about yourself. We have to play who’s on the schedule,” Baldwyn coach Michael Gray said. “We can’t worry about it. We know Bruce has been in a battle every week. We try not to make it a concern, but it’s probably in the back of our minds.”
After early injuries, Baldwyn (9-3) is healthy and producing on offense, a lot of which has come on the ground. Four players have at least 300 rushing yards, sophomore Duke Upshaw a team-high 720 and 10 touchdowns.
Freshman linebacker Armontie Price is the third-leading tackler in Mississippi at 10.4 per game. Fellow LB Marbrecio Crump is in the top 10 as well.
Bruce finished third in 4-2A after slugfests with Calhoun City, Okolona, East Webster and Eupora, four games decided by 19 points.
“If it’s a tight game in the fourth quarter, I think the advantage is on us,” Ray said. “Other than that, they’re probably more rested than we are. We’re exhausted. We’ve got to keep their offense off the field.”
The Trojans (7-3) made it to the North finals a year ago. And despite losing 16 seniors, is right back on the path. Senior quarterback Donta Armstrong took over for the big arm of Davis Brown. Armstrong has 966 passing yards and nine touchdowns and team-highs of 611 rushing yards and 10 more touchdowns.
“He makes them dangerous, a very solid player, Gray said. “And their tradition. They’ve been in these dog fights the last couple of years. We have to be balanced on offense and our defense needs to continue to play the kind of ball we have been.”