By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
HORN LAKE – Tupelo coach David Bradberry was surprised to hear his star running back Ashton Shumpert carried the ball 37 times Friday night.
“Whoa,” the Tupelo coach said. “I didn’t know he carried it 37 times.”
Shumpert did, and the junior proved highly efficient, accounting for nearly 60 percent of Tupelo’s offensive plays on the night in the Golden Wave’s 31-7 victory at Horn Lake.
The win clinched Tupelo’s second straight berth to the Class 6A playoffs with a week remaining in the regular season.
Breaking numerous tackles and making nice second efforts, Shumpert tallied 296 yards rushing and two touchdowns to lead the Daily Journal’s 3rd-ranked Large School.
“He got hit a bunch of times at the line of scrimmage and got hit hard,” said Bradberry. “They passed some licks and he was able to keep his feet and keep moving.”
After Drew White’s 26-yard field goal on the Wave’s first drive, Shumpert’s first touchdown of 4 yards put Tupelo up 10-0 after the first.
Shumpert would be key in running time off the clock in the second half, and his 33-yard touchdown run with 3:28 remaining in the game sealed the victory for Tupelo.
“The deal is we didn’t a whole lot of other stuff that seemed like it was working too good,” Bradberry said. “Ashton is a great guy as far as clock running.”
The Golden Wave (6-4, 4-2 Division 1-6A) defense also stepped up with key turnovers.
After the Eagles (6-4, 2-4) recovered a Tupelo fumble at the Wave 35-yard line, Horn Lake would return the favor.
Driving to the 4, Dylan Vuncannon recovered a fumble off Justin Kindred in the end zone to keep Horn Lake scoreless in the first half.
Antonio Clifton added an interception on Horn Lake’s final drive to clinch the win for Tupelo, who hosts the state’s top ranked team in Olive Branch next week.
Tupelo’s Tenerious Montgomery scored on a 1-yard run to put the Golden Wave up 17-0 at halftime.
Taylor Floyd’s TD run in the middle of the fourth would round out the scoring for Tupelo.
Antwain Smith’s 17-yard third quarter run would be the Eagles’ only points of the night.