Little time for Tupelo to celebrate
By Gregg Ellis
When Monday rolled around this week, Phil Ferguson faced a monumental task.
His Tupelo football team resumed practice fresh off its stunning 17-14 victory at South Panola, where both spirits and emotions were still high, and rightfully so.
After all, the Tigers are a perennial power, and a victory over their program is an achievement in itself.
But the second-year coach knew his players couldn't afford an extended celebration, especially with Greenville looming.
"There's no question that was a big win, but our game this week is just as big, if not more important," Ferguson said.
It's crucial because of playoff implications.
Starkville currently sits atop the Region 1-5A standings at 4-0 with three games remaining, while Columbus and South Panola are second at 3-1. Tied at 2-2 and vying for the fourth and final playoff spot are Tupelo and Greenville.
Needless to say, tonight's winner sits in the driver's seat.
"You pat yourselves on the back, but then you get back to work and prepare for your next opponent," said Ferguson, whose team is 6-2 overall and ranked No. 16 in the state and No. 2 by The Daily Journal Large School Poll. "And that's what we've done. I've been proud of the kids this week. But they've also seen the results of not coming down off that high. They know what the result of not being focused is. That's why our game with Greenville is so important."
The 5-3 Hornets are coming off a 24-14 setback to Columbus last week after leading 14-0 in the second quarter. They are very multiple on offense, operating from the I, one-back or double-slot formations.
"They adjust to what you are doing defensively," Ferguson said.
Unlike South Panola, which is run-oriented from start to finish, Greenville is more balanced.
The Hornets throw the ball roughly 20 times a game. Their quarterback, David Surney, will be back in action for the first time since the season opener where he sustained a shoulder injury.
"He makes us more balanced," Greenville coach Phil Short said. "And with Tupelo's size and quickness on defense, we need to be effective running and throwing."
After tonight, Tupelo's regular season is down to just two games. Next week, the Golden Wave plays at Horn Lake, then hosts Olive Branch in the finale.
The 5A playoffs begin Nov. 16.
Complete prep schedules/2D.