Special to the Journal
Phil Ferguson remembers all the losses from the 2001 football season.
And one win in particular.
Twelve years ago, Ferguson was the second-year head coach of the Tupelo Golden Wave football team.
And some 12 years ago, that Tupelo group did something that many current Tupelo fans are hoping happens again Friday night – Tupelo defeating South Panola in football.
The Wave get that chance Friday as they travel to Batesville for a Division 1-6A contest that kicks off at 7 p.m. Both Tupelo (7-0, 3-0) and South Panola (7-1, 3-0) are tied for the division lead, so the game is of some importance.
But for Tupelo fans jumping on the bandwagon, they long for a time when wins against the Tigers came more often than 12 years.
“That win was enjoyable, but looking back, I would have liked to have had a couple of playoff wins,” said Ferguson, who is currently the director of the Webster County Career Technology Center. “Beating South Panola is a good feeling, I can assure you.
“We knew they weren’t going to throw a lot, and we played about everyone in the box. As a coach and your team is in it at the half, you know you have a chance to win.”
Until its game-winning drive in that 2001 game, Tupelo had been held to minimal yardage in the second half. But the winning possession was an 81-yard, 15-play drive.
Held to 20 yards on 18 carries for the entire game, Tupelo running back Davious Gillespie scored the winning touchdown with nine seconds to play as Tupelo won 14-10.
“Things that needed to go right went right,” Ferguson said. “It was an enjoyable year for our kids.”
In 2001, Tupelo wound up in third place in Division 2-5A behind Starkville and Columbus, with South Panola finishing fifth. Tupelo went on to compile an 8-4 record, losing in the first round of the playoffs to Warren Central.
Ferguson coached a total of four seasons at Tupelo, leaving after the 2003 season, and has not coached a football game since.
“It looks like Tupelo has a good chance to win,” he said. “I hope they do.”