By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
BATESVILLE – The Tupelo Golden Wave have tasted success in the 2013 football season.
Right now, they have a bad taste in their mouth.
Not from getting blown out by the iconic South Panola Tigers, but by coming tantalizingly close Friday, falling to the No. 2 team in the state 14-8.
“Nobody likes defeat,” Tupelo head coach Trent Hammond said. “We just went toe-to-toe with the No. 2 team in the state. If you had told anybody we’d be 7-1 after the South Panola game, they would have said you were crazy.”
Crazy like a very competitive Division 1-6A battle for first place in which Tupelo (7-1, 3-1) had plenty of chances to drop its heads and let the Tigers run away with the contest.
The Wave stood their ground and had a chance to win at the end.
The fourth quarter was a battle of field position, with neither team gaining an absolute edge.
Tupelo had a possession beginning with 3 minutes, 43 seconds remaining. The Wave moved the football as far as the South Panola (8-1, 4-0) 36 before a fumble halted the drive.
South Panola ran the clock down to 9 seconds, lining up for a punt, then took a safety with 6 seconds remaining to make the score 14-8. The Wave received the ensuing kick, but failed to dent the Tigers special teams as time ran out.
“I think it’s a tribute to Tupelo’s seniors that they have bought in this year,” South Panola head coach Lance Pogue said. “But I’m proud of our team. I’m sure we dominated the stats, and we left 14 points out there.”
Sure enough, the Tigers fumbled the football twice inside the Tupelo 25. But The Wave turned the football over four times themselves.
Tupelo began the contest with a nice enough possession, driving to the Tigers 26 before Reed Bigham connected on a 45-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Tupelo’s first turnover of the contest followed, an interception, that South Panola turned into a 1-play drive with Oluwain Hoskins scoring on a 6-yard run for a 7-3 home-team lead.
And that is the way the score stood until the first play of the second half. There, Darrell Henderson bounced a play off tackle, breaking into the clear for an 80-yard touchdown. He would finish with 216 rushing yards.
The Wave recovered, and midway through the third quarter, a 41-yard drive by the visitors culminated with a 43-yard field goal by Bigham to pull Tupelo within 14-6.
On that drive by the Wave, a 20-yard scoring pass to Rodney McIntosh was called back because of a penalty.
“I don’t think we had our best first half, but we gave ourselves plenty of opportunities,” Hammond said. “We just came up short.”