November 22, 2009 12:12:00 AM
Jason Browne - [email protected]
WEST POINT -- For the first time in weeks, it looked like the West Point High School football team would have had a game on its hands.
Zach McKee''s 1-yard touchdown run on Pearl''s first possession Friday night helped give the Pirates a 7-0 lead.
The lead didn''t last long.
West Point responded by steamrolling Pearl 34-7 in their Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North Half State playoff game at Hamblin Stadium.
The victory sets up a rematch for West Point (12-1) against Region 1, District 2 rival New Hope. The Green Wave, who beat the Trojans 35-8 on Oct. 2 to win the district, will travel Friday (7 p.m.) to Columbus to determine the North Half State champion.
The Pirates (9-4) began their opening drive at their 42 thanks to a fumble by senior tailback Xavier Hogan (six carries, 76 yards). A 31-yard pass from Devante Nichols to Twymond Howard and a surprising rushing attack did the rest.
It was the first time in a while West Point had been threatened, but coach Chris Chambless and his squad didn''t blink.
"They weren''t running anything we couldn''t stop, anything we didn''t see in practice," Chambless said. "It was just executing on defense."
The defense played the role of executioner from that point, killing Pearl drives and allowing the Pirates to cross the Green Wave 30 just once the rest of the game.
But the Pirates didn''t go without a fight. Six times they attempted fourth-down conversions and six times the Green Wave shut the door.
Senior linebacker Matthew Lewis topped off the night for West Point''s defense in the third quarter when he intercepted Frank Hutton and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. He punctuated the score by bowling over the final tackler at the goal line.
Pearl coach John Perry said the rest of the story was told in the trenches.
"The bottom line was the line of scrimmage," Perry said. "They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. We''re an option team, and if you''re going to run the option you''ve got to be able to control the line of scrimmage."
West Point''s offensive line did equal damage, clearing the way for 248 yards rushing. It also gave junior quarterback Justin Cox time to throw for another 143.
Half of those yards came in the second quarter when Cox hit Michael Carr for a 70-yard touchdown. Carr made a spinning adjustment to catch the ball near the 50 before walking through a tackle at the 20 and jogging across the goal line.
LaKenderic Thomas (14 carries, 90 yards) added a pair of touchdowns and Cox scored on a 3-yard keeper in the first quarter.