West Point uses ground game to beat Starkville

September 12, 2009 11:59:00 PM

Adam Minichino - [email protected]


STARKVILLE -- Black, blue, and green. 


If West Point High School football coach Chris Chambless had his way, he would rely on a handful of plays and his offensive line and pound away on opponents. 


When you have a stable of running backs and a shifty quarterback, it''s easy to keep the ball on the ground. 


On Friday night, West Point used a bruising first-half effort and rolled up 269 yards rushing en route to a 33-13 victory against Starkville. 


"That''s our game plan," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "We want to come out and execute and cut down on the penalties. ... We wanted to set the tone early. I told the guys whoever imposes their will on the other team first is the one that probably is going to prevail." 


Jacoby Lee led a balanced rushing attack with 113 carries on 12 carries. 


Quarterback Justin Cox, Xavier Hogan, and LaKenderic Thomas rushed for touchdowns to help the Green Wave improve to 2-1. 


Cox, a junior in his first year as the team''s starting quarterback, also threw touchdown passes of 9 and 17 yards to Hogan and Antyone Adams, respectively, in the second half. 


But the Green Wave set the tone in the first half after Michael Carr''s 92-yard kick return to open the game was called back due to a tripping penalty. 


The Green Wave used nine rushes to go 57 yards in 4 minutes, 19 seconds. Thomas capped the drive with a 1-yard burst, and Kwame Williams'' kick made it 7-0. 


From there, West Point relied on the offensive line of LeDerrius Taylor, Lamont Randle, Lee Crowley, Seth White, and Desmond Boyd and tight end Michael Bush to control the line of scrimmage. 


"Everybody gave a great effort and did the best job they could and we were able to move the football," Chambless said. 


The Green Wave weren''t fancy, but they didn''t have to be. 


Thanks to Cox, who didn''t make many, if any, mistakes, the Green Wave clicked on offense. 


The junior right-hander connected with Bush on a 22-yard pass play on third-and-6 to give the Green Wave a first-and-goal from the 4 early in the second quarter. 


"I feel very confident," Cox said. "I feel my line can block, my backs can run, and my receivers can catch. I just feel good about (the offense). I feel we are very close (to putting it all together)." 


Hogan punched the ball home on the next play to help make it 13-0. 


After Starkville cut it to 13-7 on a Justin Rogers 22-yard touchdown, West Point answered with an eight-play scoring drive that ate up a little more than four minutes. 


Cox connected with Carr, who waved to Cox before the snap, on a 14-yard pass play and Thomas spun away from a couple of tackles for a 23-yard gain to help set up Cox''s 8-yard touchdown. 


Last year, Carr and Cedric Burns played quarterback for the Green Wave. This year, Cox, who last played the position in seventh grade, moved from the secondary to quarterback in the spring and is getting more comfortable every day leading the team. 


"We came out motivated," Cox said. "It was a big game, so we just had to do our thing because we work real hard in practice. 


"I knew from the first drive that we had it. I want to be a leader. All I want to do is to win a state championship for my boys." 


Starkville (0-4) had success using junior quarterback Jaquez Johnson in the speed option in the first half and went to it more in the second half. 


Except for a bad snap and a sack that accounted for -38 yards, Johnson was effective from the shotgun, using the extra space and time to spot gaps in the defense. 


"We tried to create some stuff in the open space and tried to get one-on-one matchups," Starkville coach Bill Lee said. "(Johnson) made some good plays (out of the speed option), and we feel pretty comfortable with him running it." 


But the Yellow Jackets didn''t have enough weapons to keep the Green Wave off balance. 


Lee said the absence of senior wide receiver Chuck Tillery likely costs the Yellow Jackets one to two touchdowns per game. 


"We miss him. I wish we had him," Lee said. 


Lee said he isn''t sure when doctors will clear Tillery to return to action. He said it could be a month or a month and a half, but he said the Yellow Jackets won''t rush his return. 


Without Tillery, Justin Rogers (nine carries, 70 yards) and Billy Shed (seven, 38) carried the load, but Starkville didn''t have enough firepower to make up for West Point''s ground game and Lee said the Yellow Jackets'' inconsistency worked against it. 


"We weren''t consistent all night," Lee said. "I am starved for consistency." 


Lee also praised the play of Carr, who gives West Point a game-breaker, and Cox, who he called "pretty shifty." 


He also said Starkville''s poor tackling and West Point''s line play contributed to the Green Wave piling up nearly 300 yards rushing. 


"They did everything we prepared for," Lee said. "It is about execution. They executed on offense, controlled the trenches, and won the line. Their lead blockers were pretty good. We shifted fronts and did some different things but we couldn''t stop them. 


"We told our kids that it was going to be a physical game and that they were going to run two or three things, but they''re good at it, and that''s what they did. My hat is off to coach Chambless. When you can line up and go toe to toe and pound them you''re pretty good. They took us to the woodshed." 


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.