November 15, 2013 11:39:02 AM
WEST POINT -- West Point High School football coach Chris Chambless believes his squad is close to becoming a complete team.
Now would be an excellent time for the Green Wave to come together.
West Point (7-4) will face Pearl (10-2) at 7 tonight in an opening-round game of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State playoffs.
An atypical third-place finish in Class 5A, Region 1 play puts the Green Wave in the unusual position of playing on the road for a first-round playoff game. Still, the slate is clean for all teams, and four wins is all it takes to win a state championship.
"We are excited about starting the playoffs," Chambless said. "We had some struggles throughout the season, but now everybody starts over. We are close to being the type of team that wins games in November."
Against a challenging non-region schedule, West Point lost to South Panola and Columbus. The warning sirens became louder when West Point dropped its first region games to Oxford and to Clarksdale.
"We were hearing it," West Point junior quarterback Josh Ewing said. "We knew we just had to put everything together and not get down on one another. This locker room is full of champions. It was just a matter of showing it."
Staring at a 2-4 record, West Point won its final five region games.
"You see the character of a team when they face adversity," Chambless said. "No part of the season has been easy. It is a great group of kids who have worked extremely hard to get to this point. Once you are in the playoffs, you have to find a way to take your game to the next level. Fortunately at West Point, we have been able to do that quite often."
Last season, West Point dropped an overtime decision to Starkville in the Class 5A North State championship game. Since that defeat, West Point has worked hard to return to this point. It hopes good fortune helps it find its way past the first hurdle and get to Jackson.
"It can be one little thing that separates teams when you get to this point," said West Point senior running back Aeris Williams, who topped the 2,000-yard rushing mark during the regular season. "That is what we are working on in practice. You got to make sure you are ready for anything in the playoffs."
West Point has produced some of its finest offensive work in years to close the season. The Green Wave has averaged 55 points per game during the streak. Additionally, West Point has found balance -- as Ewing and classmate Dason Thomas -- have created a potent passing attack to go with the hard running of Williams, Lacequiu Starks, and Roger Thomas.
"We feel like we are playing on a high level," Thomas said. "The biggest challenge is to keep that up. When you get into playoff games, you can't score enough points. We have the best back in the state (Williams) but here lately, we have been able to do so much more. If the other team keys in on stopping (Williams), then we have other ways we can beat you."
To reach the completeness Chambless wants, the Green Wave will have to turn it up a notch on defense. Last season, West Point allowed 15.3 points per game. This season, the Green Wave is allowing 33.8 ppg.
"We have made a lot of strides on defense," Chambless said. "Sometimes the numbers are a little bit off because we have had quick drives on offense and put the defense right back on the field, stuff like that. By now, you know what you are, so you do your best to play the right personnel in the right places. I am excited about how far we have come on defense. Again there is an area where you try to turn it up a notch in the playoffs. I think the kids will be excited about this opportunity."
Pearl completed Region 2 play with a 6-1 mark. It won its first six region games before falling to 52-7 at Callaway in its regular-season finale. The other loss was a 10-2 non-region loss at Brandon. The Callaway defeat snapped a nine-game winning streak.
Sophomore quarterback Ledarius Carpenter has thrown for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Junior Jordan Wright has run for 1,511 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
1. Pickle takes over as New Hope football coach HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Close games have helped New Hope girls find focus HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. MSU men hit unlucky 13 for second year in a row COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Rally helps send Ole Miss' Henderson out a winner COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Defense dominates as Ole Miss practices in pads COLLEGE SPORTS