OLUMBUS – After watching his team commit three turnovers in a mistake-filled first half, Tupelo coach Eric Collins was ready to explode on his Golden Wave squad.
He thought the better of it and took a different approach with his youthful roster, a move that paid off in a game-changing third quarter and aided Tupelo’s initial win of the season.
In its Division 1-6A opener, Tupelo rallied from a 6-0 halftime deficit to capture a 10-6 victory over Columbus and moved to 1-4 on the season.
“I just told them that we all lost our composure in the first half,” said Collins. “I started to go in and start yelling at them but stopped myself. With a young bunch, I had to make sure they kept their composure and just learned from those mistakes.
“And this young bunch did just that to start the second half.”
One of Tupelo’s first-half turnovers directly led to the Falcons’ lone score of the night.
After Tupelo muffed an attempt at a punt return, Columbus (1-4, 0-1) had to drive only 17 yards for a Damien Baker touchdown to take a 6-0 lead with 4 minutes, 36 seconds left in the half.
However, Collins’ toned-down halftime speech worked wonders for the Golden Wave.
On its opening second-half possession, Tupelo marched 74 yards in just 2:41 to take a 7-6 lead with 5:38 left in the third quarter. Sophomore receiver Matt MacIntosh highlighted the drive with a 32-yard run, while senior tailback Tyler McKenzie capped the drive with a two-yard scoring run.
The Golden Wave defense did the rest from there.
In the second half, Tupelo held the Falcons to just two first downs and 18 rushing yards. For the game, Columbus netted just 127 total yards and seven first downs.
“I told them all week that our defense was going to have to win this week,” said Collins. “We kept denying them for most of the game, but they really, really played assignment football and stayed in their lanes in the second half.”
Offensively, Collins used several misdirection plays and reverses to keep Columbus off stride much of the night.
“We saw that Columbus’ defense, when they get rolling, they are all flying in the same direction,” said Collins. “So we decided to go with some misdirection stuff. It helps a whole lot when you get it to one of the fastest guys (MacIntosh) in north Mississippi, too.”
MacIntosh led both teams with 89 rushing yards on just four carries. His total could have been more had his 76-yard touchdown run not been called back in the first half.
“I got a lot more comfortable as the game went on,” said MacIntosh. “But I was just happy to help us get a win. We’ve been working on this all week, and it was a matter of executing it on Friday night.”