School Spotlight: Tupelo High School (Tupelo, MS)

Tupelo High school can be found in Tupelo, Mississippi – roughly an hour east of Oxford, Mississippi. Home of the blue turf, the Tupelo Golden Wave have been a consistent dominant force in Mississippi high school football for over 100 years. Tupelo has produced a football team since 1919, and has slowly grown into a top school within the state. In 1983, Tupelo won their first District Championship. The season after, Tupelo was bumped up to class 5A. Once moved into class 5A, Tupelo won District Championships 4 of the next 5 seasons. In the 1990’s, Tupelo won District Championships in 1992 and 1999, with a lone State Championship stemming from that 1992 season. Advance to 2009, Tupelo moves up to the top class 6A in the state of Mississippi. The Golden Wave won two District Championships in 6A under former head coach Trent Hammond in 2016 and 2017. Now, the Golden Wave are under Head Football Coach Ty Hardin. Last year the Golden Wave held a record of 13-1 and were District Champions once more.

Tupelo High School football field

Ty Hardin is a young Head Coach that came into the position at Tupelo in 2020. Coach Hardin comes from the small town of Houston, Mississippi where he was born and raised. He grew up in a football family and around public education. Hardin played high school football at Houston High School; he moved on to smaller college football until later walking on to Mississippi State’s football team. Ty’s coaching career began after he graduated from Mississippi State. He went up the ranks of Houston High School and after two seasons as defensive coordinator for them he became head coach of Houston for 4 years. The job came open for Tupelo in 2020 and Coach Hardin went after it. Taking the Tupelo job meant everything for Coach Hardin and his family, as his wife is from Tupelo. He stated that this is the dream job. Coach Hardin’s staff is made up of 3 coaches from the previous staff and a promotion within the school system. The rest of the coaches were brought over from Houston or were connected to Ty Hardin in some way.

Last season the Golden Wave had an outstanding season, finishing the regular season undefeated and advancing to the North-Half State Championship before falling short to the eventual State Champion Starkville High School. Coach Hardin emphasizes that the goal year in and year out is State Championship. 13-1 last season was an outstanding season, but the Golden Wave have a large group of returning starters who are hungry for more this upcoming year. I asked Coach Hardin how he plans on managing this offseason, as well as maintain players physical wellness:

“We are very fortunate to have just renovated our weight room. The kids understand the standards and expectations that come with this. We know that you work more than you play. In high school football you are only guaranteed ten games. Embrace what you put in.”

– Head Coach Ty Hardin

Coach Hardin puts a big emphasis on weight room in the offseason and the team understand what it takes now to make a deep playoff run.

Coach Ty Hardin in a press conference for Tupelo High School (photo courtesy of Daily Journal)

Coach Hardin was able to speak about his football team for this upcoming season. The Golden Wave will be returning a staggering 18 starters from last season; Only losing 3 starters on the offensive line and one player on defense. Tupelo will be returning a very talented offense that was explosive from last season, paired with a veteran defense which ranked first overall in the state in 2022. Coach Hardin spoke highly of his entire football team. We were able to talk about some of the talent on his team for the upcoming 2023 season:

Returning QB no. 3 Jeremiah Harrell is listed at 6’3 170 pounds. Harrell led the state in QBR as a junior and put up 36 passing touchdowns with over 2,800 passing yards.

QB Jeremiah Harrell (photo courtesy of Daily Journal)

Returning RB no. 12 Quay Middlebrooks is a very talented running back listed at 5’8 160 pounds. Quay ran for over 1500 yards in his junior year. Coach Hardin expects this back to have another great year in the 2023 season.

RB Quay Middlebrooks (photo courtesy of @iamquaa12 twitter)

Returning WR no. 1 JQ Witherspoon is listed as a 5’9 receiver with incredible 4.3 40 speed that Coach Hardin is looking forward to utilizing furthermore this season. Witherspoon is said to be a “touchdown machine” by his coach.

WR JQ Witherspoon (photo courtesy of @jqWitherspoon_ twitter)

Upcoming junior receiver in the 2025 class, no. 18 Tyreke Darden is listed at 6’3 190 pounds. Darden is said to have power 5 potential with his size, speed, and strength at the position.

WR Tyreke Darden (photo courtesy of @iammtyreke2 twitter)

Tackle for Tupelo High School is no. 79 Michael Wallace. Wallace is a 6’3 293 pound, powerful offensive lineman that will help the younger front line this upcoming season.

T Michael Wallace (photo courtesy of @Big_Mike9473 twitter)

On the defensive side of the ball, FS no. 6 Shamaar Darden, is listed as a 6’2 170 safety that Coach Hardin believes has power 5 talent, and is “one of the best safeties in the state of Mississippi if not the entire south.”

FS Shamaar Darden (photo courtesy of @DardenShamaar twitter)

Returning cornerback for Tupelo no. 16 Jakwon Morris is listed at 6’0 170 pounds. Morris is of the top corners in the state of Mississippi and is a pivotal piece to Coach Hardin’s defense.

CB Jakwon Morris (photo courtesy of @JakwonMorris1 twitter)

Defensive end for tupelo and in the class of 2026, no. 99 JaReylan McCoy is listed at 6’7 245 pounds. The defensive end has the potential to be one of the top prospect in years to come. JaReylan will be a sophomore this upcoming year for the Golden Wave.

DE JaReylan McCoy (photo courtesy of @JaReylanMcCoy twitter)

OLB no. 17 Clifton Watkins is a very talented returner for Tupelo Golden Wave. He is listed at 6’1 180 pounds. Coach Hardin stated, “he is built like a backer but moves like a safety.” Watkins is worth keeping an eye on for the upcoming 2023 season.

OLB Clifton Watkins (photo courtesy of @1nes7ven twitter)

The Tupelo Golden Wave will be moving up to the new class 7A in football this upcoming season. The expectations remain the same for Tupelo as they try to bring home their second state title in 2023. Coach Hardin and his staff are very proud of the group of guys they have right now, and cannot wait to see what the upcoming season has to hold for the Golden Wave.