Skunk stirred some new life into old rivalry for Booneville-Baldwyn

First and goal - American FootballTonight: Kickoff, 7 p.m.

BY BRANDON SPECK
DAILY JOURNAL

There was nothing funny about the Baldwyn-Booneville rivalry, until last season.

There isn’t a lot of love lost between the two Prentiss County schools over the course of their long-standing rivalry, the next chapter at 7 p.m. today at Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Tiger Stadium.

It took a skunk to bring some humor to the feud. When a polecat streaked across the field during the fourth quarter of last year’s game, the rivalry would never be the same.

“I’ve been accused of bringing the skunk, turning it loose,” Booneville coach Mike Mattox said, then laughed. “I’ve heard everything, even had a radio station in San Diego call.”

It did more than clear Baldwyn’s sideline. It added a trophy.

Booneville can laugh more than Baldwyn. When order was restored, Andrew Lambert took an interception 84 yards to cap a 20-point comeback win, 28-27.

“We were already in a timeout and the skunk just started running toward us,” said Baldwyn senior Devonta Gates. “The only thing I knew was run.”

The skunk’s dash couldn’t quite overshadow the historic comeback – Booneville trailed by 27-7 at the half.

Video of the critter went viral, on YouTube, ESPN and Good Morning America to name a few.

Mattox saw the skunk pop up near the end zone earlier, but it retreated. The superstitious coach decided he wasn’t allowing it on his sideline.

“I went out to the hash. If it sprays me or whatever, I’m kicking it to the other side if I have to,” Mattox said. “It was like the parting of the Red Sea over there.”

Baldwyn (0-1) is coming in on a lower note than Booneville again. The Blue Devils (1-0) opened the season with a 35-7 win over Walnut. Nettleton upset Baldwyn 22-14. In a short week, the Bearcats may be without two key players undergoing

MRIs this week. Sophomore ATH Duke Upshaw will also likely be a game-time decision after a shoulder injury last week.

Until the kick, the skunk is the most talked about part of this year’s game.

“I was watching film yesterday. It was just roaming back and forth in the end zone,” Baldwyn coach Michael Gray said. “It got up to the 20 one time and went back. I remember it coming right between a handful of us … then we commenced to getting beat.”

brandon.speck@journalinc.com