By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Ashton Shumpert had a different answer for inquisitive students this week in the halls of Tupelo High School.
Instead of telling them, “No, I’m not playing this week,” the Golden Wave junior running back was able to say, “Yes, I’m playing.”
Shumpert, who suffered a stress fracture in his lower leg on his first carry in Tupelo’s Aug. 12 preseason scrimmage against Pontotoc, has been cleared to play in Friday’s Division 1-6A opener at Columbus.
“It was bad, real bad, not playing,” said Shumpert, who missed four weeks and three games because of his injury. “I think they’ve played well. They’ve stepped it up.”
Tupelo (2-2) was 2-1 without its talented star in the lineup.
A hobbled Shumpert attempted to play in the team’s season-opening loss Aug. 19 to Lafayette, but was limited to 19 yards on 10 carries. He was diagnosed the following week with the injury.
“He’s been completely cleared to play,” Tupelo coach David Bradberry said. “We look forward to having him back.”
Bradberry isn’t sure where Shumpert is in regards to his game stamina.
“I know he’ll play as hard as he can and for as long as he can,” the coach said. “We’ll see where it takes us.”
Tupelo QB Luke Hobson is happy to have his 1,300-yard runner back on the field.
“He’s a different threat,” he said. “He’s the best athlete in the state; you can put him anywhere on the field and he can produce.
“He’s a game-changer.”
Big test FOR WAVE ‘D’
Tupelo’s defense will have a tough challenge this week stopping Columbus’ offense.
“They’re wide open,” said Bradberry, whose team had an open date last week to prepare. “They spread you out running sideways and through the middle. They like the option. They hit you from different angles with a lot of speed.”
Columbus (3-1), which lost 22-10 last week to Louisville, has two quarterbacks in Cedric Johnson and Trace Lee.
The Falcons have a strong tailback in Damian Baker, who has rushed for 456 yards and five touchdowns.
“Our defense has played harder the last couple of weeks,” Bradberry said. “This will be the most talented group they’ve seen. It will be a challenge.”