Eric Collins doesn’t want to read any “Woe is Tupelo” stories.
He admits his Golden Wave will miss the likes of Mississippi State signee Chad Bumphis and LSU signee Chris Garrett when it takes the field for today’s 7:30 p.m. season opener at New Hope.
However, he likes what he’s seen in the preseason from the younger, inexperienced group who will wear the blue and gold tonight.
“This is a new group of guys,” Collins said. “It’s their turn to see what they can do.”
New Hope coach Michael Bradley, whose lineup features returning quarterback Zak Thrasher and running back Terrence Dentry, has no sympathy for the star-depleted visitors.
“They’ve got new firepower,” Bradley said when quizzed about the loss of Tupelo’s standouts. “I thought their quarterback (Nathan Wallace) threw the ball well in the scrimmage against West Point and they’ve got outstanding receivers.
“They’ve got good athletes on both sides of the ball.”
New Hope, which moves up to 5A, finished 8-5 last year and lost in the third round of the 4A state playoffs to eventual state champion Noxubee County.
Tupelo, now a 6A school in the new MHSAA classification alignment, finished 8-4 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
One area of concern is the Wave’s offensive line, where no starters return. The recent loss of Jessie Clayton, the unit’s lone returnee, and injuries in the preseason have the coaches scrambling.
“We’re shuffling players around some,” Collins said. “All five guys will be new. You worry about assignments. I want to see how they respond to adversity.”
Collins believes a strength will be his defensive unit, where end P.J. Jones returns along with safety Ro Hogan.
“Most of our experience is on the defensive side,” the coach said. “I’m comfortable where we are on defense.”
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal