CATEGORY: FOL High School Football

AUTHOR: PEPPER

HED:Playoff berth in reach for Golden Wave

By Bobby Pepper

Daily Journal

Of all the playoff scenario questions Tupelo faces, the most obvious one could be answered tonight.

If the Golden Wave simply beats Horn Lake, it clinches a Class 5A state playoff berth. Tupelo (7-2) will try to wrap the postseason trip when it visits Horn Lake's Eagles (6-3) for a Region 1-5A game.

"We feel like this is a must-win game," Tupelo head coach Johnny Hill said. "This is a crucial game for us. We need to take care of business."

Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Tupelo, ranked No. 10 in the state by the Associated Press, and Grenada are tied for third in the region at 3-2 and Horn Lake is fifth at 2-3. Grenada hosts Southaven (1-4) in 1-5A action tonight. All 5A teams play seven division games.

Wins by Tupelo and Grenada would lock in the four 1-5A playoff teams while eliminating Horn Lake. South Panola (5-0) and Starkville (4-1), who play each other tonight, are the leaders.

"There's a lot of scenarios in there," Hill said. "If we win the ball game, we've got a pretty good lock at No. 3 (in the division)."

However, a Horn Lake win would keep the Eagles' playoff hopes alive while jeopardizing Tupelo's postseason bid.

"If we lose, then we could be eliminated altogether (after next week's game against Greenwood) if certain scenarios take place," Hill said. "But right now, we're taking it like we've done all year just one game at a time."

Horn Lake's Donnie Wiltshire said his players know how important tonight's game is to their program. The Eagles have never been to the playoffs.

"We've got to win," the first-year head coach said. "If we lose, we're out. But if we beat them, then we've got a good chance to get in the playoffs. I told the boys to go out there and play as hard as they can and let the points fall where they may."

Hill said it won't be easy for the Wave to play at Horn Lake, which got back in the playoff hunt with two straight 1-5A wins over Greenwood and Columbus. Tupelo shut out Grenada 19-0 last week.

"They've had a lot of injuries this year, but they've got great personnel that plays hard for four quarters," he said. "We've going to have a battle on our hands."

Quarterback Jay Harris leads the Eagle offense despite playing with a broken left arm. Running back Dureal Harris has nine touchdown carries while 180-pound guard Kevin Wall anchors an scrappy offensive line. Linebacker Jason Lipe (99 total tackles) leads the Eagle defense.

Even though it lost leading rusher Mark Cannon to season-ending knee injury, the Wave still pounded out 253 rushing yards against Grenada while holding the Chargers scoreless.

"I was real pleased with the line play, offensively and defensively," Hill said. "I thought our offensive line did their best job of blocking all year and I was tickled to death with the running backs stepping up there and playing the way they did."

Cannon is the third Tupelo starter to suffer a season-ending injury. The Wave has also lost offensive lineman Phillip Ginn (back) and cornerback/quarterback Kelly Shumpert (knee).

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