By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – To say the Olive Branch Conquistadors have a player or two with a quick first step would not be doing justice to the state’s top-ranked Class 6A football team.
The Tupelo Golden Wave got a speedy introduction to Olive Branch’s quickness was as the visitors ran to a 42-24 victory in the regular-season finale for each team in Division 1-6A.
“They’ve got some weapons,” Tupelo head coach David Bradbury said. “We were a step away from making some plays tonight, but that was due to Olive Branch.”
Both teams advance into the 6A playoffs which begin next week, with Tupelo traveling to Madison Central.
The Wave (6-5, 4-3) came out determined to play the Conquistadores (11-0, 7-0) competitively, even starting Luke Hobson at quarterback in a surprise move. Hobson had not played since Sept. 23 against Columbus.
But Olive Branch gradually overcome the Tupelo effort, gashing the Wave defense in the first half for 303 yards on the ground. Several of Olive Branch’s more successful runs this night were sweeps, including the first score by John Johnson on a 13-yard run midway through the first quarter.
Tupelo tried to respond, with some Ashton Shumpert runs helping the Wave as deep as the Olive Branch 14-yard line. There, three incompletions stopped the momentum, though Drew White salvaged the effort with a 32-yard field goal.
The second quarter saw Olive Branch score three touchdowns, beginning with a 4-yard run by Byrekus Payne. Perhaps the nail in Tupelo’s coffin was the final three minutes of the half when Olive Branch scored on a Johnson 5-yard run and a D’Arthur Cowan 4-yard reception for a 28-3 lead.
“Their offense is so explosive, you can’t miss chances,” Bradbury said. “Their quarterback (Todd Mayes) is the real deal.
“You can’t tackle him because you can’t get to him.”
Olive Branch scored on the first offensive play of the third quarter on a Marcus Leflore 72-yard run. The visitors added a 3-yard scoring run by Payne later in the period.
Tupelo added a third-quarter 36-yard pass from Hopson to Josh Hamilton, and an 83-yard run by Shumpert. In the final period, Zach Johnson scored on a 77-yard pass from Thomas Harris.
Jaylen Miller led the Olive Branch ground attack with 151 yards on just four carries. Shumpert was contained most the contest, but managed 110 yards, while Hobson was 11 of 28 for 117 yards passing.