By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
TUPELO – Zach Johnson’s senior year of football may not be a perfect one, but he and his teammates have assured themselves of one thing. Tupelo will enter the final week of regular season play in playoff contention.
The Golden Wave defeated Horn Lake 31-0 on senior night to keep their hopes of a fourth straight postseason berth alive.
Tupelo must now is to win at Olive Branch next Friday.
“Man, I’m going to be so excited,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to do something Tupelo hasn’t done in a while.”
Johnson made some big catches to help the Wave move the chains and build a comfortable lead in the first half.
Tupelo senior Thomas Harris started at quarterback and hit Johnson on the opening possession for a 13-yard pickup to set up first-and-goal.
Reed Taylor put the Golden Wave (4-6, 2-4) up 7-0 two plays later on a 4-yard scoring run.
Johnson hauled in three catches in a 12-play drive a quarter later. The second reception, from sophomore QB Alex Norwood, gained 20 yards and put Tupelo in field goal range.
Drew White’s 32-yard attempt into a stiff wind was successful and made the score 17-0 with 7:54 remaining until halftime.
Defense steps up
Tupelo added to its advantage with two defensive touchdowns. On Horn Lake’s first possession, Michael Ray returned a fumble 19 yards for a touchdown.
James Gilleylen tipped and intercepted a Dalton Minton pass and went 51 yards untouched to complete the pick-six and give Tupelo a 24-0 advantage at the break.
Alyjiawon Johnson added an 8-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for the Golden Wave’s final points. It’s the second week in a row that Taylor and Johnson, both juniors, have found the end zone.
“Coming into the season we had so little experience at the skill positions that it’s been a growing process for all of those guys,” said Tupelo offensive coordinator Andy Crotwell.
“They’ve matured a little bit and are getting better and better.”
Norwood saw the majority of the snaps for the Wave and finished 9 of 11 for 128 yards passing.
Jalen Ready and AJ Boyd combined for 89 yards rushing to lead Horn Lake (2-8, 0-6).