By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
SALTILLO – It was a special night of football as the Tupelo Golden Wave and Saltillo Tigers played for the first time ever.
But past the standing-room-only crowd and great atmosphere, the night belonged to the Wave special teams.
Tupelo blocked three kicks and Rodney McIntosh returned the opening kick of the second half 75 yards for the touchdown to defeat its Lee County foe 29-10 Friday.
“The biggest thing is that I’m proud of our kids at Tupelo High School,” Golden Wave coach Trent Hammond said. “We have great kids who have bought in, and I’m proud of them.”
In a battle of 3-0 teams, the Wave special units were the clear stars of the contest.
James Gilleylen blocked two punts for the Wave (4-0), the first in the opening quarter. Alyjawon Johnson picked up the bouncing ball and ran 26 yards in for the score.
Tupelo kicker Reed Bigham later booted a 26-yard field goal three plays into the second period, set up by a Michael Ray interception.
The Tupelo defense also dominated, using its speed to limit Saltillo (3-1) star running back Diamante Pounds to just 46 yards on 19 carries, after entering the contest with 651 yards.
But following a roughing the kicker penalty on the Wave, Pounds broke loose for a 39-yard romp.
That set up an A. J. Rye 27-yard field goal to end the first half, and Saltillo was still in the contest at the intermission 10-3.
But for the second time against a Lee County foe, McIntosh begin the second half with a bang. The Tupelo senior began the third quarter against Saltillo with a 75-yard kick return for the score.
Pounds tried to respond with a 70-yard return on the ensuing kick, but was caught from behind. Later, Ray blocked a 27-yard field goal attempt on that series, and Gilleylen later blocked his second punt and returned it 36 yards for a score.
Tupelo also added a 4-yard TD reception by Heston Lollar late in the third quarter. Saltillo got its lone TD on a 24-yard fumble return by Jalen Hadley.