By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo sophomore running back Ashton Shumpert scored the first touchdown in last season’s Golden Wave-Itawamba AHS game.
One problem, Shumpert was playing for IAHS in the Indians’ eventual 35-13 victory on the Golden Wave’s home turf. He scored on a 20-yard run out of the “Wildcat” formation.
“I was thinking about that last week,” said Shumpert, who leads his new team, Tupelo, on a road trip to Fulton for a Friday night rematch against his former school.
Shumpert was the star for Tupelo (1-0) its 33-23 season-opening win against New Hope. He scored three touchdowns – two rushing and one on a 67-yard interception return.
“I saw a screen developing,” said Shumpert, who plays bandit on defense. “I waited for the quarterback to throw it. I tipped it and caught it.”
Shumpert knows Tupelo’s secondary will be tested by IAHS (1-1) quarterback Maikhail Miller, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 277 yards and five TDs last week in the Indians’ 38-14 win against Amory. He passed for 240 yards and rushed for 86 against the Wave last season.
“I know he’s a good quarterback,” Shumpert said of the Ole Miss commitment. “I’ve never played opposite him.”
Tupelo’s defense posted a solid effort against New Hope’s high-powered attack and forced five turnovers – three interceptions, two by Terrill Pinson, and two fumbles.
“Our defense played with good effort and with a lot of intensity,” first-year Tupelo coach David Bradberry said. “We made a lot of tackles when we got to them. That helps cut down on the big play.”
Ladarius Watkins, a junior linebacker, was a standout against New Hope. He recorded 10 tackles, had two pass breakups and made one of the game’s top plays when he stripped the ball from a Trojans receiver and recovered it at the Wave 36-yard line with 6 minutes, 45 seconds remaining.
Tupelo was leading 27-16 at the time.
“I knew we needed a big play,” Watkins said. “The receiver had been hit by Damion Dillard. He was staggering and holding the ball out. I went for the ball … and made sure he was tackled, too.”
Offensively, Shumpert rushed for 49 yards and Tenerious Montgomery added 53. Along with his two interceptions, Pinson caught three passes from quarterback Luke Hobson for 137 yards and one TD, an 80-yard reception.
Hobson also hooked up with Matt McIntosh for a 62-yard scoring pass.
“Overall, I thought we played well, especially in the first half,” said Hobson, a junior.