By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Tupelo’s Joey Tine doesn’t remember much from last year’s game against South Panola.
“All I know is they killed us,” said the 315-pound offensive/ defensive lineman.
Tine is right about that. South Panola crushed the Golden Wave 62-6 in the Division 1-6A game at Tupelo.
Tonight, the playing field looks to be more level. Both teams enter the game with identical 4-3 overall, 2-1 division records. Both are coming off league victories – Tupelo rallied to beat Southaven 28-27 while South Panola defeated Columbus 21-6.
“I believe we’re a lot better this year,” Tine said. “I think they’re down a little. I think we have a really good shot against them.”
Despite their record, the unranked Tigers still possess quite a bite, Tupelo coach David Bradberry said. South Panola’s losses have been to three strong programs – Hoover, Ala., Gulfport and Olive Branch.
“Everybody looks at them and thinks they’re washed up; that’s not the case,” Bradberry said. “They’re physical and aggressive on both sides of the ball. They’ve got playmakers on both sides. Somebody’s still got to go through Batesville to get to Jackson.”
Antonio Conner, a junior, leads the Tigers’ offensive strike. In last week’s win against Columbus, he scored all three TDs on runs of 48, 46 and 16 yards. He finished with 189 yards rushing.
“Every time he touches the ball he can go the distance,” Bradberry said. “If you don’t tackle him at the line of scrimmage you’ve got problems.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons, but he’s the guy they go to in the crunch.”
On defense, 6-foot-3, 270-pound tackle Issac Gross, an Ole Miss commitment, is a stopper.
“We haven’t seen anybody block him yet,” Bradberry said. “He’s got speed and is always chasing the ball.”
Tupelo counters with some firepower of its own offensively in running back/quarterback Ashton Shumpert, who has rushed for 328 yards and completed 4 of 8 passes for 36 yards in the last two games.
Shumpert, who missed four weeks with a leg injury, and Thomas Harris shared the QB chores last week. Harris threw a 36-yard TD strike to Zach Johnson for the go-ahead points against Southaven.
“You remember the score from last year and use it to push you through practice,” THS tight end Ben Aldridge said. “We want to win this one, then two more and get into the playoffs.”