BOONEVILLE — The Booneville Blue Devils ended their 2020 season with a 32-8 loss to eventual state runner-up Noxubee County. They also lost 17 seniors from the 6-3 squad that finished second in Division 1-3A to Amory, including 3-year starter John Daniel Deaton at quarterback as well as the entire offensive line. The Blue Devils return only three starters on offense.
In the eye of the everyday football layman it seems a massive rebuild project is in store for BHS and 12th year head coach Mike Mattox. “Maybe, maybe not.“We’re going to adjust our offense to what we do best,” said Mattox. “We’re going to have to play to our strengths. We’re still learning.“And we’ll need to rely on our defense until we figure out what we can and can’t do on offense.”Ben Sandlin, Jack Farris and Turner Foster are battling for the quarterback spot vacated by the two-time All-Area 1st Team QB. L.J. Shumpert will play the slash position, including quarterback, receiver and running back for the Blue Devils on offense.
Pretty much a wildcat role. And Shumpert is perfect for the role with his quickness, speed and experience.On defense, the Blue Devils return middle linebacker J.D. Nanny as well as defensive backs Shumpert and T.J. Brown. “The way our defense runs to the football and their overall team speed has stood out,” Mattox said. “We’re going to be a little smaller and a little quicker than we were last year.”Guy Gillespie will handle kicking and punting duties. And at Booneville High School the gridiron program seems to produce quality kickers. The latest in that line is Guy Gillespie. He will handle all placement duties. “He (Gillespie) finished third in the Ray Guy Kicking Camp,” said the head coach. “He should be a valuable weapon for us, including kickoffs.”Booneville will see some new faces in division play. Amory and Nettleton moved to Region 2 while Belmont dropped a classification to 2A. The Blue Devils will welcome new division foes Mantachie and Water Valley. The Mustangs finished 4-6 a season ago while the Water Valley version of the Blue Devils finished 4-5, but are three years removed from a 2018 state championship. Foes Alcorn Central and Kossuth remain in the division. Booneville owns three state championships on the gridiron since the MHSAA switched from bowl games to the state playoff system in the 1980’s, so the tradition is there. The blue-and-gold have played for seven state titles. Their championships came against Ackerman in 2000, Bay Springs in 1999 and Philadelphia in 1990.
Blue Devil-Nation, along with Mattox, his staff, players and administration, are working hard to make it back to that level.
Could that step be made this season with a rebuilt squad with plenty of questions? Will they even win the division title?
All that will be answered over the next three months.
Booneville opens the regular season next Friday, Aug. 27 when they host Mooreville.