When Saltillo sophomore quarterback Mitch Bailey takes his first snap at Baldwyn tonight, he will already be part of the long traditional season-opening rivalry of the two neighborhood schools.
Bailey, who is expected to add a passing dimension to the Saltillo offense, shows how close some of the ties between the two schools are.
Saltillo coach Craig Cherry said Mitch's father, Tony Bailey, played for Baldwyn.
"This is a community spirit type game. Our kids know their kids," he said. "People in Saltillo are all pumped up and so are the people in Baldwyn."
It makes for some tough games. Last year's 35-12 win by Saltillo was one of the few lopsided games in the series.
Tonight's game kicks off the first full week of football in Lee County. Friday, Nettleton, ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press Little 10 poll, opens at Mantachie (0-1), Mooreville opens by hosting Smithville (1-0), No. 20 Shannon (0-1) is trying to rebound from a 20-18 loss at Tupelo by hosting Okolona (0-0), and No. 4 Tupelo (1-0) is hosting defending state Class 4A champion No. 14 Louisville (0-1).
Baldwyn and Saltillo are both in a building mode with a lot of veterans.
Cherry said even with the experience on his team, "I feel uneasy because we have only four seniors."
Bailey will be leading what is a more wide open offense for the Tigers.
"I intend to put the ball in the air. I have worked on my coaching philosophy to keep up with the times," Cherry said.
Baldwyn coach Larry Gann is just a little skeptical.
"They have good size across the front. I know what (Cherry) is going to do when it gets to the short rows. He will come right at you," Gann said.
Saltillo has two good runners in fullback Kevin Valentine and tailback Jarrett Agnew to do that.
There is no question that Baldwyn will throw with senior quarterback Calvin Warren, although tailback Brad Price, who ran for 1,300 yards last year, gives the Bearcats good balance.
"Gann is one of the best offensive coaches in the state," Cherry said.
Nettleton coach Doug Vanlandingham is worried about Mantachie's size and the speed of running back Marcus Neal.
But Nettleton didn't earn its ranking without troops, including nose guard Steven Dabbs and center Lee Brand. Vanlandingham says quarterback Clay Patterson could be a surprise to many.
Vanlandingham also remembers last year when the Mustangs came from behind to upset the Tigers 20-16.
"We want to play as hard as we can, but we understand how tough Mantachie is," Vanlandingham said.
Shannon coach Mike Scott hopes his players can bounce back against an Okolona team that returns Bo Donegan. He is the quarterback who beat them in a 16-15 game last year.
"It will be a typical Okolona team, physical with good size and quickness," Scott said.
Scott said he thought his team played well on both sides of the line against Tupelo, with linebackers O'Brian Metcalf and Tony Shack each having nine tackles and a sack. However, Scott wants better play out of his skill players this week.