By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
COLUMBUS – Ashton Shumpert returned with a bang Friday night, but it wasn’t enough to give Tupelo a victory in its Division 1-6A opener against Columbus.
Tupelo’s talented tailback, who was sidelined for four weeks with a leg injury – a stress fracture – rushed for 105 yards and added three pass receptions for 41 yards, but Columbus exited the field with a thrilling 24-23 victory.
Shumpert scored his first points of the season on an 11-yard run with 6 minutes, 8 seconds remaining to give the Golden Wave (2-3, 0-1) a 23-18 lead.
“It took (Shumpert) a little while to get back in the flow,” Tupelo offensive coordinator Andy Crotwell said. “He’s not 100 percent, but he’s close.”
The Falcons (4-1, 1-0) answered Shumpert’s score, driving 50 yards in nine plays for the game-winning points. The TD came on a 20-yard, fourth-down pass on a fade from quarterback Trace Lee to Deontae Jones with 2:13 left.
“You can’t play 22 minutes and win a ball game,” a frustrated Tupelo coach David Bradberry said. “It’s Monday through Thursday. I’ve done a poor job.”
Tupelo attempted to move into position for a field goal try by Drew White, but saw it hopes dashed when Quan Latham intercepted a pass by backup quarterback Thomas Harris.
Starter Luke Hobson went out two plays earlier with a leg injury.
“It’s my ankle,” Hobson said as he left the field on crutches following the game.
Tupelo trailed 18-7 at halftime, but rallied in the third quarter to score on a 55-yard pass from Hobson to Josh Hamilton and a 33-yard field goal by White.
Columbus took a 12-0 lead early in the second quarter on back-to-back touchdown runs by Damian Baker.
The Golden Wave answered the Falcons’ second touchdown, driving 65 yards in eight plays to score on a 1-yard sneak by Hobson. Shumpert rushed for 27 yards on three carries in the drive. Hobson opened the march with a 22-yard scamper after being pressured out of the pocket.
Columbus, following an interception, added a third TD with 19 seconds left before halftime, an 8-yard pass to Cedric Jackson from Lee.