Tupelo football overcomes hardships en route to 13-win campaign

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI)- Tupelo football is coming off a dominant 13-win season, but what the team overcame off the field is arguably just as impressive.

The Golden Wave brand is fueled by toughness and that was put to the test this year. In the offseason, defensive line and strength coach Brian Robinson died unexpectedly.

“After he passed it was a tough transition,” head coach Ty Hardin said. “You can never fill the void, but you can try to replicate some of the things he did for our program. He did so much.”

“It was a whirlwind of emotions. Even into the offseason it was really hard,” defensive coordinator Chris Shoup said.

The motto heading into the season was clear.

“Our motto was that we had to play for Coach Rob. We gotta fight on for Coach Rob. It was a constant feeling and presence of Coach Rob,” Shoup said.

“His name will never be forgotten and he will have such an impact on the kids that he coached,” defensive lineman Ja’Marion Scott said.

In October, former Tupelo offensive lineman Sam Westmoreland died unexpectedly. He graduated from Tupelo HS in May and then took his talents to Mississippi State.

“It was really tough, I mean, I played with him since seventh grade. He mentored me and showed me how things worked,” offensive lineman Eli Sanders said.

“We actually communicated a couple of days before he passed,” offensive coordinator Trey Ward said. “I sent him a text that Saturday and said ‘I’m proud of you. I love you and we’re reaping a lot of the reward you helped laid the ground work from'”.

The team had no choice but to make Sam proud.

“You never really know how young people will respond to such a tragedy. It’s so sudden, but it brought us together and showed the bond these guys had,” Ward said.

“It shows how sometimes adversity in life can help you grow together,” Hardin said. “Bad things will happen that you can’t control. How you respond will determine the success that you’ll have”.

The legacy Sam left was to work hard no matter what.

“When he was here, he set standards. Even after he left we held ourselves to those standards,” Sanders said.

Tupelo had its most successful season in almost a decade, advancing to the 6A north half championship. The team definitely made Sam and Coach Rob proud.

“He (Sam) was with us every step of the way and with us Friday nights and all that time in-between. He won’t be leaving us anytime soon,” Ward said.

“The lasting impact Coach Rob had on those guys was something they’ll never forget. He loved the kids and the program and will always be remembered for that,” Shoup said.

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