Golden Wave looking for another win in Batesville
A victory against South Panola would help Tupelo's playoff chances.
By Gregg Ellis
With its back to the wall last Friday, Tupelo responded with a key 35-14 victory against a good Southaven team.
Was it a must-win situation for the Golden Wave?
That may be a stretch, but had Tupelo lost, its playoff hopes certainly would have been in serious jeopardy.
The Wave opened Region 1-5A play with back-to-back setbacks to Columbus (26-12) and Starkville (17-14). An 0-3 start with four games remaining may have been too much of a hole to climb out of.
But Tupelo took care of business, and it must open shop again at 7:30 p.m. today when it travels to Batesville to face perennial power South Panola.
The Wave, ranked No. 18 in the state, knows what it takes to win at South Panola.
On its last trip to play the Tigers in 1999, Tupelo departed with a stunning 31-26 victory.
"It means something our seniors have won there before," said THS coach Phil Ferguson, whose team is 5-2 overall. "South Panola is obviously a great team. But we fear none and respect all.
"They have a lot of talent, but they obviously know how to lose."
The Tigers, ranked No. 12, are 5-2, with setbacks to Moss Point (7-6) and Clinton (24-14). Last week, they squeaked by Columbus, 25-20, to improve to 3-0 in region play.
"They are the complete package on both offense and defense," Ferguson said.
The key to stopping South Panola is containing its potent running game.
The Tigers may throw the football five times a game at best, while there's no question their bread and butter is running.
Quarterback Chad Brown, who also sees action at fullback, and running back Charles Prince are the main threats, and when South Panola passes, the intended target is usually wideout Rickey Wright, who is also a threat with the reverse.
Last year in the Tigers' 32-10 victory at Tupelo, South Panola grounded out 312 yards on the ground. Price led the attack with 140 yards.
"We have to keep their big plays to a minimum," Ferguson said. "If we do give up a 20-yard run, we have to make sure we get those yards back on the next play."
Defensively, the Tigers are led by senior linebacker Chris Herring, who committed to Ole Miss last week.
However, Ferguson says Herring isn't the only playmaker.
"As good as Chris Herring is, he is surrounded by 10 other great athletes," Ferguson said.