November 16, 2012 11:55:44 AM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
The West Point High School football team's quest for the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state championship hit a snag in the second round of the playoffs a season ago.
At 7 tonight at McCallister Field, West Point will try to clear that same hurdle and beat Ridgeland to keep its hopes of getting to Jackson alive.
"Everything is a battle now," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "If you are not at your best, you go home. The kids know the No. 1 goal is still in front of us."
Last week, West Point put together one of its most complete games in a 38-0 home victory against Canton in the first round of the playoffs. On offense, West Point began the attack with two first-quarter touchdowns. On defense, it notched its second shutout of the season. The Green Wave is only allowing 11 points per game.
"The defense has a dominant mind-set going," Chambless said. "In the playoffs, a game can change on one big defensive play. Our guys go out there on each possession trying to make that type of play."
While the West Point defense has been solid all season, the team found its full potential when the offense established a rhythm. West Point controls the tempo with a dominant rushing attack, which again features multiple backs who can do damage.
"It is easy to forget that (senior quarterback) Tez (Lane) was learning his position at the first of the year," Chambless said. "You have spring practice and the first couple of weeks of the fall. However, it is difference when the games count. The offense had to grow and mature. It had to find its identity."
As the offense began to find itself, the victories mounted. West Point carries an eight-game win streak into tonight's contest. The streak matches the win total from last season. Starkville ended West Point's season in the second round of the playoffs last season.
West Point has scored 31 or more points in seven straight games.
"We have had the good fortune of fast starts," Chambless said. "When you are able to score early, it changes the outlook of the team. It energizes both sides of the ball."
While West Point (10-2) won the Region 1 championship, Ridgeland (9-3) placed second in Region 2. Its lone loss in region play was a 23-0 setback at Starkville. Outside the region, Ridgeland lost to Clinton (23-3) and Terry (29-14).
In the opening round of the playoffs, Ridgeland beat Center Hill, 13-6.
"They had a tough game in the first round," Chambless said. "Sometimes when you win a tough game like, it makes you tougher mentally for the next round. Even though it's the playoffs, it is like any other game. You have to limit turnovers and take advantage of your opportunities."
The West Point-Ridgeland winner will face the Starkville-Oxford winner next Friday for the North State championship. West Point beat Starkville (47-22) and Oxford (35-21) in the regular season.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter