CATEGORY: FOL High School Football
HED: Brandon first foe for Wave
By Bobby Pepper
Tupelo and Brandon have played each other in high school sports over the years, but there's one major exception football.
That will change Friday night. The Golden Wave and the Bulldogs, a pair of Class 5A teams with winning traditions, will meet for the first time in Brandon to open the 1997 season.
"We've run track against Tupelo and we've played them in basketball, and we always seem to meet them in soccer," Brandon head coach Dan Davis said. "But we've never played in football, and we felt like we needed to."
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Brandon's Strickland Field. The game can be heard on radio stations WTUP-AM (1490), WAJS-FM (90.9) and WCNA-FM (95.9).
Tupelo head coach Johnny Hill said Brandon will be a good opening-game test for his team.
"It's hard to get much of a scouting report on them because this is the first game of the season," Hill said. "We watched them play in a spring jamboree at Pearl and they're a good football team. They're a big team and they play hard. I know Brandon will be geared up for us."
The Golden Wave, a member of Region 1-5A, is coming off a 7-4 season. Brandon, a Region 3-5A squad, was 9-3.
Tupelo and Brandon start the season with many similiarities. Each has a defense loaded with returning starters. On the other hand, their offenses are rebuilding.
"Our situation is not that different from theirs," Davis said. "Tupelo lost some offensive linemen and there are some question marks about the offense. That's our exact same situation. We have more experienced people on the defensive side of the ball."
Cornerback Kelly Shumpert, a Daily Journal All-Area selection last year, is among the veteran Tupelo defenders who'll take on the Bulldog offense.
Zack Dear, who has started at strong safety, steps in as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback. Brandon also has running back Nathan McLaurin, who ran for 800 yards and 14 touchdowns last year.
"We don't know if they'll run an open-type offense or revert back to the Wing-T," Hill said. "I'm sure they're going to run that some or a little of both. I know they like to throw the ball deep."
Hill said Brandon's defense will also see a Tupelo multiple offense filled with new faces. Senior quarterback Luke McAlpin and tailback Mark Cannon are among those taking over as starters in Tupelo's offense.
"I know they have a tape on us, but we've got an entirely different offensive team from last year," Hill said. "We try to suit our offense to our personnel."
Brandon's defense is led by linebacker Lathero Collier (6-2, 210, sr.) and end Mark Baldwin (6-4, 220, sr.). Collier is rated as a major-college prospect.
Hill said the Wave came out of preseason drills with few injuries. Center Phillip Ginn has been listed as "day-to-day" with a sore back. Tackle Donald Tucker has been bothered by a sprained knee ligament, but Hill believes Tucker may be able to play tonight.