Tupelo football preps for Saturday afternoon opener

Aug. 24—NOTE — Shortly after this was published, it was announced that the game against Whitehaven would be played at Tupelo High School at 7:30 p.m. due to heat concerns.

It's not every year that a Mississippi high school football team starts its season on a Saturday afternoon instead of a Friday night.

Tupelo will be doing just that in 2023, as the Golden Wave open up against Whitehaven of Memphis on Saturday at 3 p.m. The game will be one of four held over two days at Northwest Mississippi Community College as part of the Southeast Showcase.

"We've gotta get kids up early in the morning to go prepare for a game," Tupelo coach Ty Hardin said. "They're used to playing at 7:00 at night, and hopefully that ticker is awake at 3 and, you know, hopefully the heat doesn't affect us."

It won't be just any community college that Tupelo gets to play at. Northwest has finished ranked in the top seven of the NJCAA Rankings in seven of the last eight years, winning the national championship in 2015.

"I think it's pretty awesome," Hardin said. "I think just the fact that you're playing at a top-tier junior college program nationally, too, and you're playing some out-of-state teams."

The out-of-state team in this instance is Whitehaven.

Over the past several years, the Tigers have been among the best teams in the state of Tennessee. Since 2010, Whitehaven has reached the Tennessee state championship four times and won twice. Its coach, Rodney Saulsberry, is entering his 19th season leading the program.

When Hardin thinks of Whitehaven, he thinks of athleticism. Knowing this, he feels the Golden Wave will be challenged to keep up with them for 48 minutes.

"When you think of them, you think of Memphis and you think of some really good Memphis public school football. So we know they're going to be athletic," he said. "We know they're probably going to be running just as fast as we can. We just have to go play really well and prepare really well."

Pine Grove gets big win

Adam Mauney, who previously coached a young Hickory Flat program to a state volleyball title, is in his first year at Pine Grove. The Panthers scored a five-set win over rival Ripley on Tuesday night, a big victory for the program.

"Had a lot of errors last night, but the girls played hard," Mauney said. "Played five sets, every set we won felt like we were climbing back from creating a deficit for ourselves. That was a pretty big win for the first time beating Ripley."

Pine Grove sits at 4-5 on the season and will look to carry some early momentum into region play.

"Starting off playing some more 1A teams next week, I feel pretty comfortable with where we're at," Mauney said. "I just hope we just keep getting better and better and by the time October gets here, playoffs get here, we are as good as we can possibly get."

Late kickoffs

More than a dozen area football games will kick off later than normal tonight and Friday.

With temperatures hitting 100 degrees or higher around much of the state this week, the MHSAA gave teams the option of pushing back start times for Week 1 games. Normal kickoff time is 7 p.m.

Myrtle's home game against Stayhorn tonight will be one of the late starters, kicking off at 8. Notable games delaying kickoff on Friday include Amory at Pontotoc (7:30), Baldwyn at Kossuth (7:30), Corinth at Booneville (8:00) and Shannon at Aberdeen (8:00).

Temps are expected to cool off into the 80s next week.