November 20, 2012 11:12:43 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
WEST POINT -- In the early part of the season, West Point High School football coach Chris Chambless called his offense "a work in progress."
These days, one can safely say the Green Wave's offense is progressing nicely.
West Point has scored 31 or more points in eight straight games. The offensive success has translated into a nine-game winning streak that the team will take with it Friday night to Starkville in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State championship game.
A big part of that offensive success has been the emergence of senior quarterback Tez Lane, this week's Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
"We knew the offense was going to eventually take it to another level," West Point senior defensive tackle Freddie Reed said. "Once that happened, we were going to be a complete football team. We knew then we could dominate."
To reach its second meeting against Starkville this season, West Point dispatched Ridgeland 56-21 in the second round Friday. Lane ran for four touchdowns and threw for another. He rushed for 146 yards and passed for 110.
"In the playoffs, every game matters because it can be your last one," Lane said. "Our motto this year has been to not take any team lightly. We want to be the best team on the field every time we play."
Chambless preached patience during the offseason. In his junior season, Lane was a standout running back, and Chambless knew the conversion would take time. West Point was never going to become a pass-first team. However, Chambless knew Lane had the skills to lead a balanced offensive team.
"You can't go out there and say be the quarterback," Chambless said. "It is so much more than that. Tez had to learn the position. He is a natural playmaker. However, it goes past making plays. You have to be the leader. You have to keep the huddle calm and under control. You set the tone emotionally for your team. He had to learn the intangibles of the position."
Lane only had 10 carries against Ridgeland, but he scored on runs of 50 and 58 yards. The passing touchdown was a 64-yarder to Terence Minor. Lane and Aeris Williams barely missed hooking up on a 45-yard scoring play.
"We are trying for perfection on offense," Lane said. "We are getting good at the big plays. Those can be momentum changers. They can get the other team down in a hurry."
A season ago, Aeris Williams and Lane teamed to give West Point a powerful 1-2 rushing punch. The same duo still is causing nightmares for opponents. Now, West Point can pass. The Green Wave worked hard on the short vertical game early in the season. Now, the deep ball is part of the package.
"Our offense plays with a lot of confidence, and it starts with Tez," Reed said. "I think that comes from practice. We think we are a pretty good defense. We go hard at them every day in practice. I think that is why they have gotten that much better. We feel like we can beat you from anywhere on the field."
West Point had four offensive touchdowns in its first two games. In the fourth week, Noxubee County came to Clay County and posted a 6-0 shutout.
These days, four touchdowns is a good half. The Green Wave tallied five scores Friday night and built a 35-0 halftime lead.
"A lot of people talk about the quarterback position," Lane said. "But here it is all about the team and playing for championships. I embraced a chance to at my new position. I knew the guys were looking to me.
"Last year, the season ended early (with a playoff loss at Starkville). This season, we don't want to let that happen again."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter