By Brandon Speck
BATESVILLE – Tupelo needed one play.
South Panola, the defending Class 6A state champion, beat the Golden Wave Friday, 14-8.
The Journal’s No. 2 Large School, suffered its first loss. Some would call it a moral victory against the state’s No. 2 team and defending state champion, 10-time champ and national power.
Not Tupelo coach Trent Hammond.
“No, there are no moral victories. We came to win the football game,” Hammond said.
With the ball and a 7-3 lead to open the second half, the Tigers (8-1, 4-0 Division 1-6A) broke junior Darrell Henderson free for an 80-yard touchdown pass.
That was the play Tupelo needed. South Panola got it.
“They popped him down in there, and our cornerback kind of came down in too far. He got outside of him, and that guy can fly,” Tupelo defensive coordinator Lamar Aldridge said. “I thought the kids played with a lot of effort.”
Tupelo (7-1, 3-1) found it’s play later, but it was called back. Sophomore Daniel Bristow threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Rodney McIntosh. After the fact, a flag came in for illegal motion. Reed Bigham’s second field goal (45, 43) cut Panola’s lead to a single score.
Tupelo tried for that play again with a bit of trickery in the fourth quarter. Bristow threw a pass to McIntosh, who batted it in mid-air to Quinn Tiggs, who pitched it to Jarvis Wilson. The play, designed for much more, got eight yards.
Tupelo, No. 6 in the AP, recovered two fumbles, but lost four balls of its own, including on the final drive. Tupelo still got it back after an intentional safety and free kick. The clock expired during the runback.
Tiggs tweeted Friday, “#shocktheworld.”
Tupelo was one play from doing that.
“You look at the eyes of these kids crying as they go off,” Hammond said. “We came fully expecting to win this one.”