Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell and Tupelo running back Ashton Shumpert spent their open date at the same place – the Itawamba AHS-Ripley game in Fulton.
Mitchell, who coached IAHS last season, was there to see his daughter who’s a cheerleader.
Shumpert, who played last season for Mitchell and the Indians, was there to see his friends.
“I talked with him,” Mitchell said. “Ashton’s a special kid. I said last year, ‘At his age, as a freshman, he’s as good as I’ve ever coached.’ And, I’ve coached some good ones.
“From what I’ve seen on (Tupelo) film, he’s continued to progress.”
Shumpert has rushed for 518 yards and scored seven touchdowns to lead Tupelo to a 4-0 overall record and a 1-0 Division 1-6A mark. The Golden Wave defeated Columbus 21-14 last week in its league opener.
Mitchell’s Yellowjackets are 3-2 overall and 1-0 in division play after last week’s 38-16 win against DeSoto Central.
The Shumpert-powered Golden Wave travels to Starkville for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday.
While Mitchell respects Shumpert’s ability, he says Tupelo has plenty of other players on offense who can change a game, namely quarterback Luke Hobson and receivers Terrell Pinson and Matt McIntosh.
“The quarterback is doing a good job distributing the ball,” he said. “You can’t load up on the run because they have the ability to make plays in the passing game.”
Hobson and Pinson hooked up for a 42-yard score against Columbus.
Mitchell has been impressed with the play of McIntosh, who scored from 31 yards out against Columbus on a wide receiver sweep.
“He’s a speed guy, one who’s tough to contain in open space,” he said.
Offensively, Starkville looks to 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson to make things happen on the ground and through the air.
“He’s a very gifted player,” Mitchell said. “He makes us go, no question.”
Johnson will face a Tupelo defense – led by senior end P.J. Jones – that has given up just 43 points in four games.
“(Johnson) runs well and throws well,” Tupelo coach David Bradberry said. “He’s the centerpiece of their offense. They’ll spread you out, then change and give you an option look.”
Bradberry was impressed with Starkville’s come-from-behind 21-20 win against defending 5A state champion West Point earlier this season. The Jackets trailed 20-0 at halftime in that road game.
The win snapped West Point’s 17-game win streak.
“That tells you a lot about the kind of football team they have,” the Golden Wave coach said.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal