By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
TUPELO – The Tupelo Golden Wave has been an upstart football team in 2013.
Playing the celebrated South Panola Tigers Friday for the second time this season, Tupelo was far from the upstart.
The Wave were the team dictating to the rest of the North Class 6A schools who ruled this season.
Sidestepping injuries and punishing the Tigers at times, the Wave marched on their home field to a 12-3 victory, earning the right to play for the 6A state championship next Friday.
“This was our best game all season,” Tupelo senior linebacker Ashton Wedel said. “They’re the ones who started the fire after the first time we played them.”
Tupelo will play Oak Grove, a 45-14 winner against Meridian, at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Jackson.
To get to the championship matchup, the Wave (13-1) had tons of current and not-so-recent baggage to overcome against the defending state champion Tigers (13-2).
Tupelo had not defeated South Panola since 2001, and had not qualified for a state title game since 1992.
On this night, Tupelo played the contest without its starting quarterback, Daniel Bristow, who was sidelined with the flu.
Plenty of reasons for Tupelo be the team making mistakes. But the Wave were the force on the field, with South Panola in the role of the nervous team on the big stage.
After both teams got their feet wet in the initial minutes, Tupelo began a 13-play drive with junior Alex Norwood making his first start of the season at quarterback.
The drive ended with a 37-yard field goal by Reed Bigham for a 3-0 lead.
Tied at 3
South Panola responded with a 13-play possession, ending with a Matthew Williams 21-yard kick to tie the score at 3.
With the Tupelo defense establishing itself as a dominate force as the game progressed, South Panola tried a fake punt in the third quarter. The Wave turned that into a 20-yard field goal by Bigham, and a 6-3 lead.
A Wedel interception in the fourth quarter set up a short field, with Quinn Tiggs delivering the knockout blow with a 3-yard touchdown run with 7 minutes, 16 seconds to play for the final margin.
“This was a our best game all year,” echoed senior inside linebacker James Gilleylen. “This was the only team that had beaten us all year, and we came in and executed tonight.”