By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
The ride Tupelo fans took with their Golden Wave football team ended harshly Friday night on the grass of Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The 14-7 loss to Oak Grove in the Class 6A state championship game left Tupelo players and fans oh, so close to ultimate success.
“This was such a great group of kids to be around,” said first year head coach Trent Hammond shortly after the disappointing end to the season. “To be around them from Dec. 12 of last year when I was hired, until today, has been tremendous.”
But what should be remembered was how the Golden Wave righted its football program from 4-7 in 2012 to the 13-2 heights of 2013.
The start of Tupelo’s magical season was ihanging in the balance on Aug. 23, in its season-opener against the Lafayette Commodores.
The Wave were trailing 14-10 to in the second quarter when Lafayette fumbled a punt that junior States Norman grabbed in stride and ran for a 25-yard touchdown. That contest was still in doubt in the fourth quarter when Lafayette’s D. K. Buford scored on a 2-yard run to pull the Commodores within 26-21.
But in the first of many answers Tupelo would have during the season, senior Reed Taylor plowed over a would-be tackler on a 36-yard TD run to seal a 36-21 victory.
The third and fourth games of the season brought the added flavor of Lee County rivalries, with a 27-3 win against Saltillo, and a 47-0 win over Shannon. The Tupelo-Saltillo meeting was the first ever between the two schools.
Early October saw Tupelo move its record to 7-0 with key Division 1-6A wins over Grenada, 34-7, and Southaven, 26-13. These were teams that Tupelo was potentially competing against just to make the playoffs.
Then Tupelo won belief in a 14-8 loss to defending 6A champ South Panola. Perhaps the Wave did belong?
The Wave ended the regular season 10-1 with another statement win, 7-0 over Olive Branch, sweeping into the playoffs with tornado force momentum.
Then in the playoffs, a last-second 20-17 win over Warren Central, a forceful 27-15 victory against the legendary Bobby Hall and Madison Central, and eventually slaying the beast of the North with a 12-3 victory over South Panola.
Tupelo can embrace the glow of success before having to do it all again.