Football preview: Baldwyn prepares for move to 1A

Bearcats' season opener is Friday, Aug. 23 at home against Kossuth

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Pete Gouine catches some air in an effort to block a pass to Hunter Franks during the first full day of football practice for Baldwyn High School on Monday. This year’s squad will feature 11 seniors and will also see several new teams this fall as Baldwyn competes in Class 1A. News photo/Jason Collum

BALDWYN – Less than two weeks into practice – and less than two weeks before the season’s first game against Kossuth – Baldwyn Coach Michael Gray likes what he’s seeing out of this year’s varsity football team.

He’s seeing more experience than he had on last year’s young squad, and he believes that will pay off this season as his Bearcats launch into their first season in Class 1A.

“It’s just been good,” Gray said of how practice had been progressing despite the sweltering heat of the past week. “We kind of picked up where we left off in the summer, and we’ve been pleased with their effort.”

Gray, entering his 26th year of coaching and 11th as Baldwyn’s head coach, has 11 seniors leading a roster of 38. 

“Last year we had a lot of kids play that really were not ready to play but they had to, so the experience level in some of those spots where those guys got to play is going to be really helpful,” Gray said. “Maddux (Richey) getting a year under his belt will help, too. He’s going to be better, naturally. And just getting some kids older and some kids stronger is going to benefit us.”

Though it’s too early to predict who will be Gray’s biggest contributors on the team, he said he’s liking what he’s seeing across the board.

“We’ve we got a good group of kids,” he said. “The eighth grade bunch last year was a really good group and they’ve all made it up here. So, you know, they’re getting their feet wet and they’re going to know how to make an impact this year. We’ve had a couple kids to move in, and they fit right into the program. Jacolby Williams is one of our seniors and he’s going to be that corner that matches up against whoever he faces. He’s going to be a weapon.”

Moving to Class 1A will mean a difference in travel for Baldwyn, a difference in playoff structure, and several new teams to face. Gone from the schedule is the regular non-conference game with Saltillo. In its place Baldwyn will be facing Belmont, a Class 3A team, before heading into a seven-game region stretch. Baldwyn will now face Thrasher, Coldwater, Biggersville, Ashland, H.W. Byers, Falkner and Myrtle enroute to the playoffs.

“The biggest plus for us going to 1A is now instead of playing four division games we play seven, so playing seven division games means we don’t have as many non-division games,” Gray said. “We won’t have to play some of the bigger schools that we’ve always had to in the past because we’ve always had a hard time scheduling non-division games with just our tradition of being pretty good.”

Like classes 5A and 6A, Class 1A only has three playoff rounds prior to the state championship. But just being in 1A doesn’t mean the competition will be any easier. Along with realignment, last year’s Class 1A champion Nanih Waiya was moved into the North division, giving any north half team a tough match before the title game. Still, Gray said not having to travel all over the state in the playoffs will help his team.

“If once you get into the playoffs, if you’re not facing a Delta school or driving to the Delta, that helps (in not getting road weary),” Gray said. “We’re excited about it.”

2019/20 Baldwyn High School Varsity Football Schedule

All games are at 7 p.m.

Aug 23Kossuth

Aug 30@ Booneville

Sept 6  Open

Sept 13 @ Nettleton

Sept 20 Belmont

Sept 26 @ Thrasher*

Oct 4   Coldwater* (HC)

Oct 10Biggersville*

Oct 18@ Ashland*

Oct 24H.W.Byers*

Nov 1   Falkner* (SN)

Nov 8   @ Myrtle*

* Denotes 1-1A Games / HC – Homecoming / SN – Senior Night

2019/20 Baldwyn Junior Varsity Football Schedule

Aug 20@ Iuka & Belmont*

Aug 26@ East Union 5:30 pm

Sept 3  @ Kossuth* 5:30 pm

Sept 9  Booneville* 6:00 pm

Sept 17 Iuka 6:00 pm

Sept 23 Kossuth* 6:00 pm

Sept 30 @ Booneville* 5:30 pm

Oct 7 @ Thrasher 6:00 pm

ALL – 7th/8th/JV on same night

* Denotes JV Games