Tupelo Christian Preparatory School’s first football season as a member of the MHSAA was a success.
The Eagles, which finished the season at 5-5 overall, won the North Mississippi Independent Conference championship after going 3-0 in conference games, including Monday night’s 21-0 shutout of Houlka. The conference also includes Jumpertown and New Site.
“We knew that there would be challenges playing the Mantachies, O’Bannons and Coffeevilles,” TCPS head coach Aubrey Boren said of his team’s non-conference opponents this season. “We found out a little about the speed and size that we haven’t faced before. Our kids got to see where we hoped to be in two or three years.
“We feel blessed to finish the year without a bunch of kids beat up.”
The Eagles, who hope to join a full-time MHSAA division in the next couple of years, have been planting the seeds for a growing program that transitioned from the Mississippi Private School Association (now called the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools) to the MHSAA. This past season was TCPS’ third year of varsity football and the first for several of the school’s 27 players.
“If we get 10 kids per class, we got 40 kids,” said Boren, who only had 17 players on last year’s team. “We are going to have a chance to compete with that many. That will be our goal.
“I think with our football program, 10 (players) per class will give us a good chance to compete.”
Returning next year for his senior season will be 1,000-yard passer Will Cockrell, but he will be without his “go-to-guy” Braxton Melancon and his center Hayes Collins, who will have graduated by next May.
Melancon played wide receiver and running back on offense, while serving as the “Mike” (middle) linebacker for the TCPS defense.
“He was a critical piece to what we accomplished,” Boren said.
Boren said he could probably count on one hand the number of bad snaps Collins has made in the past two seasons, something remarkable considering that the Eagles run most of their plays out of the shotgun formation.
Also contributing to the Eagles’ championship season were newcomers such as baseball pitcher Zach Tucker, who was a wide receiver this season, and various freshmen players.
For those players returning next fall, the 2010 season starts today with their first workout in preparation for next year.
John Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal