Tupelo Golden Wave happy for playoff opportunity

MADISON – Tupelo’s making no apologies for backing into the postseason.
The Golden Wave had its knees buckled last Friday by Olive Branch, 43-17, in its final regular-season game. However, Starkville’s loss to Columbus clinched Tupelo a state playoffs berth as the No. 4 team from Division 1-6A.
“We kind of got lucky,” THS senior defensive end P.J. Jones said. “It’s not how you get in, but the fact that we got in there.
“It’s an exciting time right now.”
Jones and the Golden Wave, 7-3, will play tonight at Division 2 winner Madison Central, 10-1, a team directed by Bobby Hall, the former Amory and Northeast Mississippi Community College coach.
The kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The winner advances to next week’s second round against the Southaven-Northwest Rankin winner.
Tupelo rallied to defeat Southaven, 48-34, Oct. 8 in the regular season while Northwest Rankin handed Madison Central is lone loss, 24-21, Oct. 29.
“Playoffs are a funny thing,” THS coach David Bradberry said. “You beat the right people and you get in. That’s what our guys did.
“All of us are 0-0 now.”
Tupelo’s defense will be tested by a productive Madison Central offense that averages 42 points and 401 yards per game.
Wide receiver Tobias Singleton is considered the team’s top prospect. He has 38 receptions for 579 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Jaguars’ quarterback is Drew Rowell, who has completed 71 of 128 passes for 1,096 yards, 14 TDs and one interception. He’s added 478 rushing yards and eight scores.
“They are a low-turnover team,” Bradberry noted. “They don’t fumble and throw interceptions. They run a high-percentage passing game, a lot of play-action, three-step drops … safe passes.”
Joe Price, who had a 251-yard, five-TD night against Warren Central, has rushed for 959 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Tupelo counters with sophomore tailback Ashton Shumpert, who has rushed for 1,296 yards and 13 TD, and quarterback Luke Hobson, who has completed 57 of 122 passes for 1,117 yards, nine TD and just three interceptions.
On defense, linebacker Damion Dillard recorded 11 tackles against Olive Branch. End P.J. Jones leads the team in sacks and tackles for losses.
Madison Central has three linebackers with 60-plus tackles each. Martez Simpson, a lineman, has 6.5 sacks.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or gene.phelps@djournal.com.

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal