September 16, 2012 1:03:18 AM
WEST POINT -- West Point High School senior quarterback Tez Lane and coach Chris Chambless shared a long postgame embrace on the 40-yard line of McCallister Field.
Lane was worn out, frustrated, and needed a word of encouragement. He also was happy to be standing in one place after being chased around the football field for two hours by a ferocious Noxubee County defense.
West Point had two great scoring chances in the second half Friday night before falling to Noxubee County 6-0 in a thriller.
"We were right there. The game was for the taking," West Point senior linebacker Mario Virges said. "We ran out of time."
The game was decided in the closing seconds. The Green Wave had a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Lane's second fumble allowed time to expire with the Tigers on top.
"That was the best defense we have faced all season," West Point junior running back Aeris Williams said. "They made it hard on us to get first downs."
West Point managed 134 yards of offense, including 89 yards in the final half. The Green Wave began the second half with a patented 15-play drive. True to West Point form, the entire drive took place on the ground.
West Point managed a first down at the Noxubee County 13 before it turned the ball over on downs at the 6. The Green Wave later hopped on a fumbled punt return at the Noxubee County 25. This time, the Green Wave managed no yards and turned the ball over on downs.
Still, the Green Wave had one last chance. Starting on its 21 with no timeouts, West Point gained back-to-back first downs on pass interference plays. Two Lane to Williams pass plays moved the Green Wave inside the 20 for one last time.
"I guess it just wasn't meant to be," Williams said. "We felt good on each of our drives in the second half. We were able to put some things together. However, we could not close the deal."
West Point was shut out for the first time since a 13-0 loss to Lafayette County in the opening round of the 2008 Class 4A playoffs. The inability to score put a huge damper on a standout effort by the defense.
Noxubee County finished with 70 yards. The Tigers punted on eight of nine possessions. A 43-yard touchdown run by Darrell Robinson in the second quarter was the only score.
"We played a really good game. We gave it our all," Virges said. "We just wished we had a little more time on the board. Coach told us at the beginning of the week to dominate. That was our key word for this week: Dominate. We dominated but fell one play short."
Virges wasn't the only playmaker on defense. Davion Bradshaw, Tyler Logan, and Rashad Jones also were in on numerous stops. Despite a weight advantage for the guests, the West Point defensive line produced some of its best work of the season.
Other than the touchdown, Robinson was held in check, gaining 85 yards on 15 attempts.
"You could not have asked for more out of the defense," Chambless said. "Offensively, the game played out as expected. If you look at the size and speed of their front, you know it was going to be challenge. It was a one-play game. When two great defenses go at it, you expect that."
West Point will now return to work in preparation for its Class 5A, Region 1 opener against Lake Cormorant on Friday at home. West Point has shown offensive potential in victories against Columbus and Starkville. It also battled in losses to South Panola and Noxubee County.
"It is all about region play, and we have to bring it starting next Friday night," Virges said. "We want to go to Jackson (the site of the Class 5A state title game). The best way we can do that is learn from these losses and get ready for the region games. Our real season begins Friday night."
Despite the disappointment that hung over his team, Chambless feels the best is yet to come.
"When you face adversity, you have two choices," Chambless said. "You can take the low road and get consumed by what went wrong, or you can take the high road and come out of it better than you were before.
"I know the type of character we have in that locker room. I know the type of kids we have in this program, and the pride they have in that uniform. I already know which road they are going to take."