Big target for Golden Wave

South Panola has won eight state titles since it last lost to Tupelo in 2001. (AP file photo)

South Panola has won eight state titles since it last lost to Tupelo in 2001. (AP file photo)

By David Wheeler

Special to the Journal

Who is South Panola?

For Tupelo High School, with an athletic program that has earned state and national recognition, South Panola is a football team the Golden Wave has not beaten since 2001.

Tupelo defeated the Tigers 17-14 that season, scoring the winning touchdown with 9 seconds to play on a 1-yard run by Davious Gillespie.

Tupelo went 8-4 that season and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

For South Panola, 2001 was the last time it did not make the playoffs. The Tigers have won eight state championships since.

The number eight is also significant for Tupelo, having won eight Clarion-Ledger All Sports Awards in the same time frame.

Who is South Panola?

Former Tupelo and Mississippi State quarterback Todd Jordan had never heard of the school until a 1988 playoff game the Golden Wave won 42-7, the first time the two schools played football against each other.

“I knew where Batesville was, but I’d never heard of South Panola,” said Jordan, who is helping with Tupelo Internet broadcasts this season. “Now you think of a program that is the class of the state.”

Who is South Panola?

“They’ve been the top team in the state for years, and I would really like to see those guys go down there and beat them,” said Dwight Dean, a defensive tackle on the 1990-91 teams who later played at Itawamba Community College and Delta State. “Back then, we had a great group of guys who worked for one common goal, but fell just short.”

History lesson

In 1990, the last time Tupelo began a season 7-0, Tupelo did not play South Panola. The Wave began the season 9-0, eventually losing to Meridian in the 5A title game.

In 1991, Tupelo began 6-0, with a 21-0 win against South Panola. The season ended with a loss in the title game to Moss Point.

And in 1992, Tupelo lost its first game of the season to Louisville. The Wave eventually beat South Panola 30-28, winning 13 in-a-row, including a 13-0 win over Hattiesburg in the 5A championship game.

Who is South Panola?

In 2013, South Panola (7-1) is the team tied with Tupelo (7-0) at 3-0 atop the Division 1-6A standings.

The only common opponent is Hernando, which South Panola beat 49-0 last week. Tupelo beat Hernando 41-7 on Sept. 27.

Who is South Panola?

For the Tupelo Golden Wave, they are next.