BY GENE PHELPS
OXFORD - Mark Covington's 35-yard touchdown reception in the first half will make Tupelo's postseason highlight reel.
His 11-yard shoe-top catch from quarterback Louis Conley on fourth-and-8 from the Oxford 28-yard line with 1 minute, 8 seconds remaining Friday night made Tupelo a 25-22 winner against Oxford.
Two minutes after a fumble recovery by defensive lineman Bobby Seaman gave the Golden Wave possession at the Oxford 30, Tupelo's staff was faced with a huge decision.
Facing the fourth-and-8, Wave coach Phil Ferguson elected to go for a first down.
"We felt like we should go for it," a relieved Ferguson said. "A field goal would have only put us up by six. Even if we didn't make it, we felt it would burn a little more time.
"(Offensive coordinator) Buz (Boyer) made the call. Louis made the throw and Mark made the play."
Conley, who completed 13 of 26 passes for 172 yards, rolled to his right and zipped a low pass to Covington, who scooped up the ball to preserve the Wave's second win of the young season.
"It just fell in my hands,"said a smiling Covington, who caught four passes for 81 yards. "I just ran under it. It was a good pass."
Tupelo took the lead, 25-22, on the first play of the fourth quarter when Conley capped an 80-yard, seven-play drive with an 18-yard touchdown run. A 2-point conversion pass from Conley to Covington gave Tupelo its 3-point lead.
Oxford led 22-17 on the strength of two field goals of 34 and 38 yards in the third quarter by Kevan Wright.
The Chargers, now 1-1, had an opportunity to take the lead midway in the fourth quarter when Tim Bruss intercepted a Conley pass and returned it to the Wave 31-yard line.
Three plays later, running back Nick Cook, who rushed for 216 yards fumbled at the Tupelo 11 following a 16-yard gain. Tony Osborne fell on the loose ball for the Wave.
"The two late fumble recoveries were big," Ferguson said. "That was a big stop there (Osborne's recovery). Somebody made a big lick.
"It was a great ballgame with a lot of big plays."
Tupelo, a 41-0 winner last week against rival Shannon, struck early, scoring twice in the first quarter to take a 10-0 lead.
Conley scored the first touchdown on a 1-yard run to cap an 82-yard, 12-play drive on the Wave's first possession. In the march, Conley completed two third-down passes of 19 yards to Covington and 25 yards to Jeffrey Cameron. Tupelo was also aided by a personal foul penalty that put the ball at the Oxford 27-yard line.
Tommy Pharr gave Tupelo a 10-0 lead with 3:40 left in the opening period, kicking a 47-yard field goal.
Oxford answered on its next series, riding on Cook's back for five consecutive plays and 65 yards down to the Wave 20. From there, Wes Grilliette hooked up with Jeremy Long on a 20-yard touchdown pass. Tight end Cade Hoggard's block opened the path to the end zone for Long.
The Chargers took the lead 13-10 with 9:58 left in the second quarter on Cook's 1-yard run. He gained all 23 yards in Oxford's short drive that was set up by Anthony Mitchell's 23-yard punt return.
Later in the half, Mitchell intercepted a pitchout by Tupelo's Conley at the Wave 38-yard line with 3:15 showing on the scoreboard clock.
Wright gave the Chargers their 16th unanswered point, kicking a 30-yard field with 1:11 left to give Oxford a 16-10 advantage.
Tupelo answered with 20 seconds left in the half when Conley passed 35 yards to Covington on a fade route for the touchdown. Pharr's extra point gave the Wave a 17-16 halftime lead.