Expectations changed as Tupelo kept winning

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Tupelo seniors Antonio Clifton and James Gilleylen hug after defeating South Panola 12-3.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Tupelo seniors Antonio Clifton and James Gilleylen hug after defeating South Panola 12-3.

By Brandon Speck

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo would have been more than content to win a first-round playoff game – if you asked last December.

Tupelo would have been thrilled to end the season 12-2, two losses to South Panola, one in the Class 6A North finals – last December.

In October and November, expectations changed to goals embarrassing to speak about after finishing 4-7 and out of the playoffs a season ago.

“Honestly, a lot of us were like, ‘Man, we just want to make playoffs,” said senior Ashton Wedel, whose interception inside the South Panola 6-yard line set up Quinn Tiggs’ clinching 3-yard touchdown in Friday’s 12-3 win against 6A kingpin South Panola – sending Tupelo to Friday’s state championship.

Tupelo athletics director Andy Schoggin picked up the North championship trophy on Monday. The sticker on it read, “Tupelo.”

Schoggin stuck it on his fridge, frightened to touch it until he brought it to the field Friday – and handed it to first-year Tupelo coach Trent Hammond.

Wedel said October’s 14-8 loss at South Panola triggered the new expectations.

“We kind of came up with a little different scheme defensively,” Hammond said. “I don’t know whether that was it or not, but our kids were ready to prove something.”

It’s a fairy tale with no ending yet in sight. Tupelo won Friday with starting quarterback Daniel Bristow at home with the flu, a kink that came to light early Friday. Alex Norwood led the offense to all the points it needed off Reed Bigham’s foot.

Hammond came on board from Amory in December. It was an exciting hire because of the success he led at Amory. But no one expected the excitement to still be alive this December – with the best defense in all of 6A.

The last page is still to be written – Tupelo’s top-ranked defense facing off with Oak Grove – and Brett Favre’s offense.

“It’s unexplainable, man,” Norwood said. “It just seems like all the hard work, countless practices, coming up here on Sundays, it feels like it’s finally paying off.”

brandon.speck@journalinc.com