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BALDYWN – On Friday, September 9 the Water Valley Blue Devils traveled to Lee County to take on the homestanding Baldwyn Bearcats. The Bearcats are picked by many media pundits to make it to the MHSAA State Championships in Class 1A this season.
The Blue Devils overcame an early 14 to zero deficit to take a 20 to 14 lead late in the game, but untimely turnovers and big plays by the Bearcats did Water Valley in as Baldwyn came away with the victory, 28 – 20.
The first quarter started promising as junior quarterback Tyler Richardson hit senior wideout Taylen Johnson for a 38-yard reception down the Baldwyn sideline to cross into Bearcats territory. The drive would stall out and Baldwyn wasted little time to answer with a deep pass of their own that set them up with first and goal at the two-yard line before they plunged in for the rushing touchdown.
The Bearcats would add another early score before the Blue Devils would settle down and play some of the most inspired defense of the young season. After being down 14 to zero, senior tailback Jaden Morgan would have yet another impressive ground game and scamper 58-yards to paydirt to pull within a score.
Morgan would finish with 21 rushes for 137 yards and three rushing touchdowns. The point after attempt was no good. The defense would force a turnover on downs and the Blue Devils would again find the endzone after Richardson and Johnson connected again in the air for a 30-plus yard reception. The score would be 14 to 12 at the break in favor of the Bearcats.
The third quarter would open just as the second ended with Blue Devil momentum. The kickoff unit gave the defense great field position to begin. Junior linebacker Reid Burress and junior defensive lineman Donalvin Wilson tackled a Bearcat wingback off left tackle for a loss, and forced a fumble in which senior defensive back Ty Pritchard ran all the way down to the Bearcat 2-Yard Line. Wilson had a career night with 15 total tackles, 9 for loss, 3.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles.
Morgan would make the home team pay for the fumble as he rushed in for the two-yard score. Richardson would add the two-point conversion on the quarterback sneak to give the Blue Devils a 20 to 14 advantage. The score would remain the same for most of second half as the two teams traded strong defensive stands. A few questionable fumbles by Baldwyn were ruled either incomplete or down that could have shifted the final outcome in another direction.
Late in the third quarter, the Bearcats gained great field position and finally made the Blue Devils pay after two consecutive goal line stands. The Bearcats took a 21 to 20 lead late into the game. The Blue Devils were driving and reached the Bearcats Red Zone before a costly fumble would give the Bearcats the ball and ultimately drive down and convert a fourth down Passing play to seal the game 28 to 20.
Head Coach Clint Faust praised the team for the improvement in the postgame huddle, but challenged them to clean up the costly mistakes and practice with an intent to get better each day and each rep. The Blue Devils fall to (0-3) but have shown marked improvement each week. After a four-week road trip, the Blue Devils will finally play at Bobby Clark Field, affectionately known as “Death Valley,” on Friday, September 15, 2023 against Class 2A foe Eupora Eagles (2-1) at 7 p.m.