TUPELO – Lamar Aldridge is undefeated.
The longtime assistant coach, making his head coaching debut, guided Tupelo to a crucial 42-0 win over DeSoto Central on Friday. He was filling in for sixth-year head coach Eric Collins, who was suspended by the Tupelo School District on Thursday for an alleged violation of district policy.
Aldridge, the defensive coordinator, is in the seventh year of his second stint at Tupelo and his 11th year overall.
“Coaches always say, kids are resilient, they bounce back,” said Aldridge. “They’ve had a lot of adversity, and they played hard tonight, had some fun.”
It is unknown how long Collins’ suspension will last.
It was a different feel on the sidelines for the Golden Wave. The low-key Aldridge is a stark contrast in personality to Collins, a high-strung native of south Louisiana.
Collins wears a headset and relays offensive coordinator Andy Crotwell’s play calls from the booth to sophomore quarterback Luke Hobson. On this night, assistant Michael Stroup took Crotwell’s calls.
Aldridge prefers not wearing a headset.
He called in the defensive signals but was unable to huddle with his defense between series, instead chatting briefly with assistant Brian Jones, who would then gather the unit at the whiteboard.
Michael Campbell handled special teams, which Collins normally coaches.
It obviously worked out well. Tupelo was dominant defensively, clean and efficient offensively, and got a 61-yard punt return for touchdown from Skyye Jones.
“He took a very workmanlike approach to it,” Crotwell said of Aldridge. “He doesn’t say a whole lot, but he’s definitely a calculated individual, and everything is very well thought out.”
The timing of the suspension could have thrown Tupelo for a loop. This was a key Division 1-6A game, and the win kept playoff hopes alive for the Golden Wave (2-6, 2-3).
“Coach Collins was here all week for practice, so he prepared us for the game,” said Hobson, who opened the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Matt Clark. “And coach Aldridge has been in the Tupelo system for quite a while, so nobody skipped a beat. But we’re missing him.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal