By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Ashton Shumpert has watched the tape of Tupelo’s 17-0 victory against Louisville, a game in which he rushed for 184 yards and scored a touchdown.
He wasn’t impressed, however, with his overall performance.
The Golden Wave’s sophomore tailback and defensive back, who has rushed for 423 yards and scored six touchdowns to help THS open with a 3-0 record, said he wasn’t pleased with his pass blocking.
While he would smile watching his No. 22 dart and dodge Louisville defenders, he would frown seeing teammate, quarterback Luke Hobson, knocked to the turf and hurried in passing situations.
“I watched the film, it was bad,” Shumpert said.
THS offensive coordinator Andy Crotwell is confident his talented 6-foot-1, 195-pound back will get better with his pass protection skills as the season goes along.
“That’s something we’re working on,” he said. “We’re not going to have him blocking too much.”
No, Crotwell knows the ball needs to be in Shumpert’s hands … often.
The transfer from Itawamba AHS opened his Golden Wave career with a 3-TD game against New Hope. He rushed for 54 yards against the Trojans and returned a pass interception 67 yards for a score.
On a 43-yard run against IAHS, he broke seven tackles.
“It’s very difficult to get a clear shot on him,” Crotwell said. “He keeps his legs churning. He’s got a nice blend of power and elusiveness.”
In a win against his former school, Shumpert rushed for 185 yards and scored two times. He had a 36-yard punt return for a TD nullified by a penalty.
His performance has earned him a five-man fan club, aka, the offensive line.
“You want to protect him, make sure he gets his yardage,” center Aubrey Thomas said. “We know we’re blocking well when he gets that kind of yardage.”
“I really enjoy making a nice block and seeing him break loose,” left tackle Eric Bauman said. “From day one you could see he was explosive. He would shoot through the holes. He’ll also lower his shoulder. He’s not afraid to take a hit.”
Shumpert’s far from satisfied with his early showing.
“I’ve got a lot more to accomplish,” he said. “I like watching the films to see what I’ve done wrong so I can improve.”
That’s one of the reasons, Shumpert’s such a special player, Crotwell notes.
“He’s got such a good work ethic,” the coach said. “He’s also a quick study. Against Itawamba, late in the game, he ran out of bounds when we needed to be running the clock. … (Against Louisville) on a sweep, he cut up field instead of going out of bounds.”
Crotwell can only smile when asked about Shumpert’s qualities.
“He’s equally effective running inside and out,” he said. “He’s got great power, a great burst. He’s improved on getting north, making the cut rather than dancing.
“He’s very fluid as a receiver. He runs good routes. He’s got great hands. He adjusts well when the ball’s in the air.”
Shumpert had three receptions for 28 yards in the opener against New Hope. Look for him to be more involved in the passing game as the season goes along.
“When you’re that talented, you need to be on the football field,” Crotwell said.
Tupelo has an open date this week before beginning Division 1-6A play Sept. 24 with a home game against Columbus.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org.