TUPELO – David Bradberry’s done the math. So, Tupelo’s first-year coach knows how important a win Friday against Columbus is for his Golden Wave.
Tupelo (3-0) opens Division 1-6A against the visiting Falcons (2-2), in the first of seven straight league games for the Golden Wave.
“This game is huge for us,” Bradberry said. “Columbus is good enough to beat a bunch of schools. You don’t need to get behind them in a tiebreaker.”
That’s true. Of the four postseason berths available in the eight-team division, one is nearly a lock for nationally ranked South Panola, the defending state champion. The remaining seven schools are battling for the other three spots.
South Panola (4-0), Southaven (4-0) and Tupelo are the three unbeatens. Columbus, Starkville (2-2), which upset 5A state champ West Point earlier this season, and Olive Branch (2-2) are considered the other contenders. DeSoto Central (0-4) and Horn Lake (0-4) have struggled.
“That’s why this game is so big,” Bradberry said. “There are playoff ramifications one way or the other.
“When this season is over, Columbus will figure in on who’ll make the playoffs and who won’t.”
Tupelo is coming off an open date following its 17-0 win against Louisville Sept. 10. Columbus lost last week to Louisville, 36-28.
The Golden Wave used its off week to heal some bumps and bruises, Bradberry said. “Hopefully, we’ll be healthy this week,” he said.
Tupelo also used the week to give more reps to its backups. Depth will be crucial as the team enters division play.
“We’ve really played a lot of people on defense,” Bradberry said. “That’s helped us keep fresh legs on the field. It’s also giving us a lot of experience. Our defense has done a great job. They’re playing hard.”
Damion Dillard, a senior linebacker, led the team with 12 tackles against Louisville.
“We’ve played together,” Dillard said. “We’re trying to get better each week. We know the teams we’re playing are getting better.
“We’re undefeated. Everybody believes in us. We’ve just got to keep getting to the ball and tackling.”
Offensively, sophomore running back Ashton Shumpert has rushed for 423 yards and scored six touchdowns.
Gene Phelp/NEMS Daily Journal