Tupelo’s lockdown defense keys 4-0 start

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal Tupelo linebackers – from left, Marcus Robinson, JamesGilleylen, Ashton Wedel and Justin Clifton – all rank in the Golden Wave's top six in tackling.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
Tupelo linebackers – from left, Marcus Robinson, JamesGilleylen, Ashton Wedel and Justin Clifton – all rank in the Golden Wave’s top six in tackling.

By David Wheeler

Special to the Journal

There was little doubt that the Tupelo Golden Wave defense was going to have its share of good moments during the 2013 season.

Led by starting linebackers James Gilleylen, Ashton Wedel, Marcus Robinson and Justin Clifton, the potential has become reality after four games.

To open the season, the Golden Wave faced Clarion Ledger Dandy Dozen prospect D. K. Buford of Lafayette. He was held to 42 yards rushing.

In Tupelo’s most recent game, Sept. 13, Saltillo’s Diamante Pounds came in averaging 217 yards per game. He was held to 46 yards rushing.

“They’ve played well, so far,” said a cautiously optimistic Trent Hammond, Tupelo’s first-year head coach. “The style of defense we want to play is driven by the linebackers and the four of them have been good making plays.”

On the young season, the quick Tupelo defense has more than contributed to the team’s 4-0 start. It could be argued that except for penalties and the bounce of the football, the Golden Wave D would have yet to surrender any touchdowns.

In the 3-4 defense, four of Tupelo’s top six tacklers are the starting linebackers, led by Clifton with 24 solos and 17 assists.

“I’m excited about our defensive play,” said Wedel, a senior inside linebacker. “The way the team has changed since last year, I’m hoping to knock off some of the good teams in our division.”

Division play ahead

While the Tupelo bandwagon is on a roll right now, the Golden Wave has not played a division game yet. And Division 1-6A includes the last two Class 6A state champions – South Panola and Olive Branch.

Tupelo opens division play tonight at Hernando, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

“Our linebackers have been playing hard and time will tell about this year,” said defensive coordinator Lamar Aldridge, who is in his 15th season at Tupelo. “The best group of linebackers I’ve seen at Tupelo was 1992 with players like Marcus Gary, Mon Wilson and Jarious Jackson, but this year’s group plays together real good.”

Within the team concept Hammond is preaching, Tupelo has good depth on defense and at linebacker, with Maalik Coleman and Chad Gunn contributing key minutes to the group.

“Our defense is very aggressive,” said Gilleylen, a senior inside linebacker. “We come to practice every day ready to kill each other. On Fridays, we try to do the same thing to the opposing team.”