• John Macon Gillespie

Thriller in the Flood Zone

I would like to say a big thank you to all the coaches and players from Olive Branch and Tupelo. They saved their best for last. It was a treat watching those two teams battled it out in their final game of the regular season.

The Golden Wave defeated the Conquistadors 35-28 in the Flood Zone in a regular season finale that earned Tupelo a guaranteed playoff spot and a third place finish in their division.

Next week Tupelo will travel to face Warren Central, while Olive Branch will travel to face Starkville to open the 6A playoffs. But for now, let’s come back to this game because it has earned the spotlight for the moment.

Daniel Bristow and the Golden Wave, as they have many times this season, had their backs against the wall. They were down 15 points in the final period. Their season was seemingly over. To borrow from Lee Corso, “not so fast.”

The Golden Wave defense was able to create just enough stops and just enough turnovers to give Tupelo’s offense a chance. They used those chances well, with the help of a few trick plays.

The first was a deep strike from junior wideout Austin Watkins, off a screen pass from Bristow, to senior receiver Quien Salters. Kegan Huddleston would finish the drive a play later before Bristow toted it in on the two-point try. Tie game at 28 apiece.

So with the trick play behind them and the clock ticking down under a minute, it seemed Tupelo would attempt a long field goal to win the game. WRONG. Bristow turned and tossed the ball to junior Donte Freeman on what appeared to be a simple sweep play, until he pulled the ball out of his pocket and tossed it some 30 yards downfield, on a dime, to senior receiver Jaylen Pounds. The Wave had the ball at the one-yard line. They would get it in two plays later, leaving previous few seconds for Olive Branch to respond. They would not and the celebration was on.

You cannot say enough about the offensive showing that Brady Burse, Tarik Travis, Jay Banks, jr. and Dontadrian Bruce put on, but in the end, three interceptions left the door open for the opportunistic Wave.

I saw a lot of good games this regular season, including a good one from Tupelo a few weeks ago when they narrowly defeated Desoto Central. However, this was the best game I saw all season. There is simply no substitute for late drama in a game and none I saw this season topped this game. So for that I thank all people involved.

It was a terrific send off for many seniors who played their final game on the famous blue turf in the Flood Zone tonight. Certainly a bittersweet ending, as you know it is your final game there, but you couldn’t have scripted a better way for it to come to an end.

Two players stood out to me on defense for Olive Branch. The first is Raymond Clifton II. He has to be around 250 pounds, but I saw him line up at outside linebacker, defensive end and even corner on one play. He brought a new meaning to versatility. The other was sophomore defensive end Fabien Lovett. He is 6-3 230 approximately and really got the motor going while chasing Bristow and company all over the backfield on the night.

For Tupelo three defenders stood out. First was senior defensive end Chase Cannon. He played with incredible energy and emotion, as he has all season, and really got after Brady Burse all night long. He is constant disruption. Make no doubt about it, a college will find a gem in him late in the process. The second was sophomore linebacker Jett Johnson. He is one of those guys that impresses you more the more you see him. He was up to his usual tricks: making tackles, making the defensive calls and even got another interception.

Lastly, I want to single out senior cornerback R’Darious Edwards. He covered Olive Branch’s top receiver, Jay Banks, jr., all night long. He lost some battles, sure, but he stood toe-to-toe all night and won his fair share. Obviously enough for his team to come away victorious.

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