• John Macon Gillespie

Lee County Lockdown: Tupelo @ Shannon

Growing up in Tupelo but having parents who graduated from Shannon high is a peculiar situation. I grew up with a loyalty to the Golden Wave, where I went to school. However, I also grew up with a soft spot and a love for the Red Raiders.

I heard tales of the heyday of the rivalry. When it was bitter and intense war, but also featured some of North Mississippi’s best talent. In 2016, it will again feature some the best players that will be in action all across Mississippi this Friday night. It will be an exciting matchup in The Hole, where my parents once watched this same matchup, with my same excitement. The only difference is, I’m rooting for both sides.

There are many interesting storylines that proceed this year’s game.

At the top of the list is the amount of trash talk brought on by social media. Now players, and fans, from both schools can connect easier than ever before. That has added a layer to this rivalry. Last season it turned up the heat, as bit.

Tupelo high sports information direction and WTHS adviser Braden Bishop recounted a beef that originated last season during game week.

“Last season, we released a promo and it garnered over 2,400 views in less than 12 hours. It featured a former Red Raider, who was currently playing for the Golden Wave. The player was getting ready for the game while listening to a voice over saying he cannot handle the pressure. The video ended with him ripping off an old Shannon jersey on Renasant Field with other teammates. After lots of talk and keeping safety at the ball game a priority number one, it was decided to take the promo down the morning of the game. Since then, the promo cannot be found, but it is often the most requested and most talked about promo in WTHS New history.”

Then there’s last season and recent history. As Bishop(@tBradenBishop) noted on Twitter recently, Tupelo is 7-0, having outscored Shannon 243-62, in the series dating back to the 2003 season. Last season’s game was a 55-16 win for the Golden Wave.

With so many bragging rights on the line and considering one or both of the schools makes a declaration that they are going to win the game before it goes down each year, pride is certainly on the line.

“Shannon-Tupelo week is unlike any other week during the football season. The two schools are separated by only 16 miles and lots of students have relatives or even siblings that attend each school,” Bishop noted to SES Mississippi.

One name from the past is sure to surface this week, if only right here, is Fred Huddleston. He was a star for the Red Raiders in the 1980s and Southern Miss after that. His son, Kegan, is a senior playmaker for the Shannon offense. Last season he was at Tupelo. Kegan has a unique perspective of the rivalry and he respects it, but he and his teammates aren’t treating it any different this week in prep work.

“It means a lot,” Huddleston said. “It’s a very big week and we are preparing just like we would for any other game.”

Lastly, both teams are off to a good start this season. That means the Wave and the Raiders enter this game very confident. Tupelo has been impressive on both sides of the ball and is ready to compete in region 1-6A. While Shannon has already jumped in the SES Mississippi 4A top 5 rankings at five. This is going to be a battle.

Later in the week look for a breakdown of this game more in-depth. It will highlight players to watch, keys to the game and an x-factor that could decide the game.

**Tupelo photos by Lee Adams of ICC.

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