August 29, 2018 12:33:46 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
Typically, players and coaches don't get caught up in winning streaks.
Coaches hammer the "one-game-at-a-time approach" and players are ready to echo their coaches' talking points.
However, the West Point High School football team might be the exception to the norm.
The coaches know the team has won 30-straight games. The players know it, too. It is a common talking point on the school's social media account.
When you are a traditional state power, it's OK to embrace a winning streak.
"You can't get caught up in the numbers," West Point senior Ryan Melton said. "However, we have had fun with it. It hasn't been added pressure. We already put enough pressure on ourselves. The win streak and whatever number it gets to is something we take pride in. We have fun with it."
West Point's streak will face its biggest test Friday night when the Green Wave visit Starkville.
In almost all of the rankings, Starkville is the state's No. 1 team. The Yellow Jackets are a favorite to win the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A State championship.
Then there is also that slight bit of revenge that will be on the line. Last season, West Point routed Starkville 28-3 on a soggy night at Hamblin Stadium. The win was part of a dominating run to a second-straight Class 5A State championship. A year ago, the smallest margin of victory for West Point (15-0) was 19 points.
Many consider that West Point squad to be one of the state's best teams. The Green Wave were dominant on both sides of the ball. Granted, Class 5A was down a year ago. However, West Point showed its mettle in routs of Class 6A foes Columbus and Starkville and Class 4A foes Noxubee County and Louisville.
Olive Branch was considered the second-best team in Class 5A. The Conquistadors lost twice to the Green Wave last season. The losses were by a combined 77 points.
Many feel like Starkville could be on a similar path of destruction this season. Coach Chris Jones' second team is loaded with Division I prospects on both sides of the ball.
Starkville already has beaten Noxubee County and Oxford by a combined score of 86-13.
"Rivalry games are fun," West Point senior Jaylen Cungious said. "We got a lot of confidence from beating Starkville last season. That game showed us we could compete with anybody."
The West Point-Starkville rivalry has produced lots of drama this decade. Both teams have been among the upper echelon with a combined five state championships this decade.
To start the decade, the teams were in the same classification. That is why the 2012 postseason game (won by Starkville in overtime for the North State championship) will stand the test of time as arguably the most significant game played between the rivals.
Starkville missed the Class 6A playoffs in 2016. However, the second week of the season saw the Yellow Jackets beat the Green Wave 28-6.
West Point finished with more than 200 yards the following week, but it managed a 17-13 win at Columbus. From there, a winning streak was born.
West Point later survived a scare at Clarksdale. In the postseason, the Green Wave won by an average margin of 32 points.
That dominance set the tone for 2017. How much of that carries over to this season remains to be the seen.
The Green Wave defense is excellent. The offense is ahead of the curve.
Victories against Columbus and Louisville by a combined score of 81-16 have been impressive. West Point is the favorite for a third-straight Class 5A title.
None of the past will matter at 7 p.m. Friday at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
Still, this game means nothing in the playoff race. In soccer, we could call this a friendly.
That being said, West Point players and coaches will come to the field well aware of the number 30.
It's a safe bet Starkville's players and coaches will know that number, too.
Scott Walters is a sports writer for The Dispatch. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter