By Brandon Speck
BRUCE – Attendance is spotty in some places on Friday nights. Maybe it’s the price of gas or the sun going down earlier. Maybe it’s the economy or Internet radio broadcasts.
Maybe high school football just doesn’t mean as much to as many people. It means plenty to the players, this time of year leaving a joyous bunch moving to the next round or a team in tears, seniors who have put on their uniform for the last time.
“It hurts,” said Bruce coach James Ray, minutes after his Trojans’ season came to an end at the hands of Baldwyn Friday in the second round of the MHSAA Class 2A playoffs. “Any time the season’s over, especially for a group of seniors that have won so many ballgames in their career, it’s sad to see this.”
A handful of Bruce players knelt for several minutes on the field in tears after the loss, some consoled by parents.
It’s a physical game, but an emotional one. Tears aren’t reserved for just after the game.
In a game of big plays, Clayton Gray thought he had made the biggest play for the wrong team. Gray, a senior Bearcat receiver, caught a pass on Baldwyn’s first possession of the second half. Gray thought the play was blown dead and had the ball taken away and returned for a touchdown by Donta Armstrong to give Bruce a 22-16 lead.
“My son is sitting over there with tears in his eyes,” Baldwyn coach Michael Gray said. “It hurts. But I told him, they’re going to get you. And they took care of it.”
Nine to go
Baldwyn picked up Gray with a 33-22 win.
Eight more Journal area teams will lay their seasons on the line Friday.
Baldwyn hosts Eupora in the 2A North semifinals. Calhoun City hosts West Bolivar.
Monroe County rivals Smithville and Hamilton are still alive in 1A, with Smithville at Broad Street and Hamilton hosting St. Aloysius.
“They’ve got an athlete in every position,” Smithville coach Bubba Tacker said, “some big kids, fast. You’ve got to defend the whole field and tackle very well.”
North Pontotoc is the only 3A school left, hosting Charleston. In 4A, Lafayette hosts Noxubee. In 5A, 12-0 Oxford hosts Pearl and in 6A, Starkville visits South Panola and Tupelo visits Madison Central.