By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The first National Select 7-on-7 Qualifier Tournament in Tupelo landed Oxford a berth in July’s Hoover National Tournament.
And it gave Tupelo coach Trent Hammond more live looks at his new team, one he and a new staff are trying to put back on the Class 6A map.
“We’ve got to become a ‘we’ team,” Hammond said after Tupelo lost in the semifinals Saturday at Ballard Park. “That’s easy to say. We’ve got to get our focus to where we’re a group of people that all pull for one common goal.”
Hammond can see flaws in his new team, but he says he also sees good things on each side of the ball. Tupelo lost its opener, but worked into the semifinals.
Before being shut out 36-0 by Prattville (Ala.), Tupelo scored a 27-17 comeback win over Center Hill, getting key plays from some of the players Hammond and offensive coordinator John Keith will count on to lead the program back into the spotlight. Senior Quinn Tiggs caught a key touchdown pass from sophomore Daniel Bristow. Tiggs had a pick to seal it.
“I was proud of their efforts,” Hammond said. “We’ve got some playmakers, a lot of bright spots. Some things to overcome, but that’s the way every team is.”
Hammond and Keith led the resurgence of an Amory program that became one of, if not the state’s most dangerous passing team. Hammond limits the stock he puts in the 7-on-7 atmosphere to gauge where a team really stands, but it does aid the growth of a passing offense.
A five-wide attack is an option at Tupelo, but a 50-50 balance is the aim, a precision-based attack that takes time for players to grasp. Tupelo ran the ball a lot in the spring. He jokes, sort of, that if all else fails and they have to go all-air, then it will still be 50-50, with everyone receiving the same amount of targets.
One of those targets can be junior Alex Norwood. Norwood was under center last season – and may still take snaps this season – but has drawn the eye of the coaches for his receiving abilities.
“Alex has come on and been a tremendous receiver for us,” Hammond said. “He probably caught more balls here today than anybody these last two days.”
Oxford lost the first finals game 27-16, its only loss of the double-elimination, before defeating the Falcons 22-12 in the championship.