Aug. 26—TUPELO — Familiar faces led the way in Tupelo's first game of the 2023 season.
Another efficient day from quarterback Jeremiah Harrell and a dominant defensive performance led the Golden Wave to a 37-0 win over Memphis Whitehaven on Saturday night at Renasant Bank Field.
"I'm proud of our guys. I thought they handled this week well," Tupelo coach Ty Hardin said. "It's been tough going into all of this because of the parameters that we've had to work around with the heat."
Tupelo started with a short field after a Whitehaven turnover to open the game. Four plays later, Harrell found Qua Middlebrooks out of the backfield and made it 7-0.
The Golden Wave (1-0) forced a three and out, then took over and scored another touchdown to open the second quarter — this one a pass from Harrell to J.Q. Witherspoon on a slant across the middle.
In the eyes of Harrell, Tupelo's offensive success came down to two things: preparation and execution.
"Everything that we prepared for before the game and all that," he said. "I really just feel like we executed every play and just got every play down and just saw what the defense did, and we picked them apart."
J.J. Hill got in on the action not long after Harrell's second touchdown with a 37-yard rushing score. Later in the second, the Golden Wave forced a fumble deep in Whitehaven (1-1) territory, which led to another Hill touchdown.
It was another strong night for Tupelo's defense, which allowed just 7.4 points per game in 2022. The Golden Wave forced six turnovers, which included three interceptions, a forced fumble and two turnovers on downs.
Hardin feels that the sky's the limit with the team's defense and was proud of how it responded.
"I was kind of worried at first. They kind of played slow a little bit after a little adversity happened," Hardin said. "But we kind of picked it back up, figured some stuff out, and I feel like we can be a team that gets better every week."
Tupelo added a field goal and a pick-six before halftime.
Turning Point: Jakwon Morris had an interception on Whitehaven's first play from scrimmage to set up Tupelo's first touchdown.
Point Man: Harrell was 10 for 20 for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Talking Point: "The O-line did a great job giving him time. He did a good job with his reads. It's also easy, too, when your run game is doing that good. ... I think we could run the ball about every play, and that always opens up things for him." — Hardin, on Harrell
—Tupelo debuted new gold jerseys for the contest.
—This was the third meeting all-time between Tupelo and Whitehaven. The teams previously faced off in 1931 and 1954.
—Tupelo hosts Southaven on Friday at 7 p.m.