December 28, 2012 9:44:06 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The stickers tell the story.
Tiberias Lampkin doesn't know how many of the dime-sized Timberwolves logos cover his helmet. If pressed, he can remember why he received each of the stickers the West Oktibbeha County High School football coaches handed out to reward stellar performances.
Lampkin had enough of those efforts this season that the stickers that shine in the light are from only five games. As a whole, Lampkin's 11-game season ranked with the best of any in the Greater Golden Triangle area this season. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior running back rushed for 1,982 yards and 32 touchdowns. He averaged more than 180 yards per game and had 10 100-yard games to help West Oktibbeha set a single-season record for victories in a season with an 8-3 finish.
For his accomplishments, Lampkin is The Dispatch's Small Schools Offensive Player of the Year.
"I loved it," Lampkin said when asked how he liked being the team's workhorse. 'It is a blessing to have a coaching staff and a team that is looking forward to you helping to carry them."
A year ago, West Oktibbeha relied more on a passing attack led by quarterback Von Smith. The graduation of key receivers forced West Oktibbeha coach Adam Lowrey to alter his approach for the 2012 season. Lowrey realized the Timberwolves had success running the ball with Lampkin at the tail end of the 2011 season in part because teams were trying to stop the passing attack. With the help of an experienced offensive line, Lampkin's patience was rewarded as he finally got his chance to be the go-to back he wanted to be.
"Through all of my years of coaching him, I probably only saw one flaw, and that is a tad bit of selfishness, but that is the same type of kid you're going to want running the ball," Lowrey said. "He wants the ball every single play. He told me, 'Coach, I love you to death, but I wish we ran the I-formation, and I wish there wasn't anybody else who could run or catch the ball on the team but me. I want the ball every single play'."
Lampkin seized the opportunity to set the tone. In a three-game stretch he rushed for 265 yards and six touchdowns in a victory against Nanih Waiya, 279 yards and five touchdowns in a victory against Weir, and 256 yards and a touchdowns in a victory against Sebastopol. The victories set the stage for West Oktibbeha to make the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A playoffs, but the state of Mississippi's decision to revoke the school's accreditation caused the football team to lose its eligibility to participate in the postseason. As a result, West Oktibbeha's best season in school history ended with back-to-back losses to Noxapater and Pelahatchie.
The off-the-field drama didn't slow Lampkin down. He solidified his place as one of the state's best running backs with a 238-yard, three-touchdown effort in a victory against West Lowndes. He also had 159 yards on 11 carries in a loss to Class 2A power Eupora.
"Tiberias is the kid who is going to cut the lights on if the weight room if they are not on and is going to tell everyone to hurry up and get in there," Lowrey said. "He is the one guy that no matter how the other guys felt, he loved the weight room, he loved to hit, and he loved to practice. I guess the only thing he didn't like was the running."
Lampkin, a second-team All-State pick, made up for what he didn't like to do in practice by going extra hard in the games. Playing both ways, he also had more than 100 tackles and very rarely came off the field. Lowrey credits Lampkin's parents for instilling character in him and a work ethic that pushed him to be a leader. Lampkin's father was a standout player at Sturgis High.
Lampkin figured this season would be his opportunity to be the workhorse. As a result, he told himself he would have to work hard in the offseason to prepare himself.
"Throughout all my years, I have been working super, super hard, and like coach said, we believe in praying," Lampkin said. "I knew God was going to bless me for the hard work I was doing. I could feel it coming. I was actually patiently waiting because my ninth- through 11th-grade years I was thinking to myself, 'I really want to run the ball, I want to run the ball,' but I knew after a while God had a bigger plan and that is was not my time."
Lampkin hopes to parlay his senior season into a chance to play football in college. He said he isn't sure where he will wind up, but he plans to be in somebody's backfield and to help that team win. He said he has received interest from Jackson State. He also has talked to people from Alcorn State and East Mississippi Community College, and sent film to the coaches at Copiah-Lincoln C.C. There's no doubt in his mind he will be on the field in the fall, itching to make his mark as a go-to back.
"I am still in the weight room training. I am still going outside running and doing my agility drills. I have confidence in myself that no matter what the situation I am going to do good," Lampkin said. "That is really built off faith because I know good and well that if I am working hard and praying and doing the right things and listening to Jesus, he is going to take me there. I know he didn't bless me with this talent for no reason, so I am just going to walk into it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.