By Brandon Speck
BRUCE – So much for any talk of Baldwyn’s soft schedule.
The Bearcats shook off the rust Friday night– if there was any from a weakened division slate – and beat Bruce 33-22 to advance in the Class 2A playoffs.
Baldwyn will host defending North champ Eupora (9-2) in the North semifinals.
“I’m just super proud of our kids. They earned it and they deserved it,” Baldwyn coach Michael Gray said.
Tied at 16 at the half, Bruce (7-4) took the momentum in the third. Donta Armstrong stripped Baldwyn receiver Clayton Gray and went 35 yards to take a 22-16 lead after a missed PAT.
The Journal’s No. 1 small school Bearcats (10-3) then marched down the field after Ozzie Price’s 35-yard kick return and scored on Duke Upshaw’s 10-yard run. Upshaw added a 15-yarder in the quarter for a 30-22 lead.
Upshaw, a sophomore, ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
“We’ve been working hard. Nobody looked for us to come out here and get this ‘W,’ ” Upshaw said. “But we did.”
Baldwyn rushed for 295, with touchdowns from Devonta Gates and Laquintez Upshaw.
There were plenty of big plays, no drive longer than the 8-minute drive into the fourth quarter that Zachary Winstead ended with a 24-yard field goal for the final margin with 4:20 left.
Gates got Baldwyn the ball when Armontie Price forced a fumble from Bruce quarterback Armstrong.
Armstrong was held to 76 yards on 12 carries. Baldwyn’s Nathan Watson had two picks.
“My hat’s off to Baldwyn, so physical up front,” Bruce coach James Ray said. “So much bigger than we were. But we gave it all we had.”
Bruce took the lead off a fumble on Baldwyn’s first play on Tyler Donovan’s 29-yard field goal. The Trojans got first half scores on Armstrong’s 81-yard pass to Jay Johnson and a 36-yard run from Armstrong. Winstead’s kick at the end of the half tied the game.
“Hard work pays off and it did tonight,” Baldwyn quarterback Corbin Scott said. “We played really hard and we finished.”