By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
JACKSON – “I just know you have to work for every inch when you play our defense,” Tupelo head coach Trent Hammond said on the grass of Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday.
Hammond and the Golden Wave football team had just fallen to the Oak Grove Warriors 14-7 Friday night in the Class 6A championship game.
Coming into the title game, the Wave defense was giving up only 9.9 points per game, and was the best defense in 6A. Oak Grove was averaging 40.2 points per game.
As it turned out, the Warriors needed 144 inches to score the winning points, with 6 seconds left to play in the third quarter.
And on a fake field goal.
“The kids played their hearts out, “ Tupelo defensive coordinator Lamar Aldridge said. “On fourth down, that’s a big play.”
The score was tied 7-7 when Oak Grove took the football at its own 11-yardline, and march down the field in 10 plays to the Tupelo 4.
Basically, Oak Grove ran its field goal team on the field, all except receiver Logan Scott. The Oak Grove player walked close to the home sideline, walked into the end zone at the snap, and caught Kirk McCarty’s simple pass with absolutely no one around him.
“Basically, the rule states the the player has to be inside the numbers when the whistle blows ready to play,” said Scott Cantrell, a former Nettleton and Hamilton head coach, and current Monroe County schools superintendant.
It was the sixth straight game a Tupelo opponent had run a fake kick against the Wave.
“We did what we could to win this game,” Tupelo senior inside linebacker James Gilleylen said. “This season was way better than last year.
“The only way this season could have been better was to win a state championship.”
This was the only game this season Oak Grove did not score in the first half.
Tupelo owns the best defense in all of Class 6A. That defense put Oak Grove’s offense to the test, an Oak Grove offense led by future NFL Hall of Famer, coordinator Brett Favre.
“They’re not tough to figure out. They’re just good,” Favre said after the game. “There’s not really anything secretive about what they do. They’re just very good at what they do, good players.”