By Brandon Speck
In 2008, Trent Hammond’s Franklin County football team lost in the South state championship. In the game, his team threw the ball for the 36th time – of the year.
“Third-and-13, we were running the draw,” said Hammond, “even though you and I both knew. “
How things change. And change was good for Tupelo.
In 2013, Hammond led the Golden Wave (13-2) to its first state championship game in 21 years and for his part in a quick turnaround, the first-year Tupelo coach has been named the Daily Journal’s Coach of the Year for the second time.
Hammond is willing to change, adapt to his personnel. Those changes – running at Franklin County, throwing at Amory, whatever it took at Tupelo – were what made the Golden Wave so successful.
Draw became shotgun at Amory, where Hammond won this award in 2011. “It kind of changed out of necessity at Amory, if we wanted to be good,” Hammond said.
Amory set passing records under Hammond and now-Tupelo offensive coordinator John Keith. The Panthers had a high-IQ quarterback in Forrest Williams and smart receivers that meshed with Williams, Hammond and Keith.
Amory went to the 4A North finals that season.
When he came to Tupelo a year ago, everyone envisioned a high-flying offense. So did the coaches.
Then, visions of the shotgun became a reigned-in rush offense that fed off the best defense in Class 6A.
“The one thing I will tell you I will do, is change,” said Hammond, who came up through the ranks a defensive coordinator with a love for running the football – and the clock. “It’s not like college. I don’t get to recruit kids to run what I want to run. I went through a spell when I wouldn’t change, and didn’t win as many games.”
Hammond took Franklin County from under center, then adjusted to an Amory line better at pass protecting than knocking off blockers. This season with high-flying expectations … Hammond got back to his defensive roots with a team that allowed less than 10 points per game. The offense rushed for 194.7 yards per game on 527 carries. Tupelo threw it 224 times.
Hammond does a lot of crediting his football-smart players and loyal coaches. Defensive coordinator Lamar Aldridge adapted to Hammond when he gave him the playbook. Keith and wing-based offensive play-caller Mike Davis both followed Hammond here.
Hammond admittedly wanted to throw it – a lot – when he came to Tupelo, but to fit his personnel, he changed the plan, again, back to running trap, counter trey, sweep, stretch, a transition backwards to his roots.
“About the third game, we talked as a staff that we were really good on defense. Let’s even get a little more conservative,” he said. “We brought it in.”
Next year’s change of plans?
“We’re figuring that out,” Hammond said.