By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
TUPELO – The last time Tupelo High sophomore quarterback Alex Norwood saw significant playing time was in the Golden Wave’s season opener nine weeks ago.
That is, until Friday’s game with fourth-ranked South Panola.
Norwood provided a much-needed spark to the offense, but three second-half turnovers helped the visiting Tigers pull away in a 41-14 victory at Golden Wave Stadium.
After the Wave went backwards 20 yards on their opening possession, Norwood entered and knocked the rust off by directing an 11-play scoring drive.
Starting at the Tupelo 26, Norwood used completions to Zach Johnson and Jarvis Wilson to move the ball into South Panola territory.
Norwood’s QB sneak on fourth-and-goal put Tupelo (3-5, 1-3 Division 1-6A) ahead 7-6 and secured his spot on the field for the duration of the game.
The Tigers (6-2, 4-0) responded in the second quarter with Rip Kirk’s second touchdown toss to DeAndrea Harris.
A fair catch interference penalty on the kickoff plus an offsides call on South Panola gave the Golden Wave the ball at the Tigers’ 42-yard line to open their next drive.
It took Norwood one play to make the Tigers pay for their penalties. Wilson hauled in a wide-open pass down the Tupelo sideline and, after breaking away from a defender, gave the Wave a 14-12 advantage.
From that point, though, South Panola stepped up its defensive pressure and held Tupelo to 29 second-half yards.
The Tigers especially clamped down on Norwood, who was held to four completions for only 10 yards after the break.
“We did some nice things in the second half to stop him, because he did a good job in the first half,” South Panola coach Lance Pogue said. “We challenged our guys at halftime to pick up the intensity, and I appreciate them doing that.”
The Tigers scored the final 29 points after Wilson’s touchdown, 17 of which were a direct result of Golden Wave turnovers.
Clayton Sibley’s 23-yard field goal came after a muffed punt and two interceptions each led to touchdowns.
Norwood finished 13 of 22 for 138 yards and received praise from his coach, David Bradberry.
“He did a great job under duress,” Bradberry said. “The interceptions late in the ballgame we were forcing it trying to do something, but I was proud of the way he played.”