September 19, 2009 11:30:00 PM
MACON -- Michael Carr couldn''t look up.
With teammate Curtis Virges pensively looking on by his side, standing guard to prevent anyone from entering their space, Carr stared at the turf at Shannon High School.
Around him, members of the West Point High School football team tried to digest a 27-20 loss in their season opener Aug. 21.
The loss was harder to comprehend for Carr, who had a potential interception go through his hands into the arms of Keon McGaughy for the deciding touchdown in the final minutes.
All Carr and the Green Wave could do Friday night was hold their heads high.
As West Point coach Chris Chambless talked to his players after a 20-12 victory against Noxubee County, Carr stood next to his coach with his chest out and his shoulders squared.
Carr wanted to smile, but that''s not the attitude that is going to help the Green Wave realize their championship dreams.
"I thank the Lord because he is keeping us humble and hungry," Carr said. "After that play against Shannon, the Lord has my mind on making another play. I give all of the glory to the Lord."
Carr did all he could to help West Point end defending Class 4A champion Noxubee County''s winning streak at 18.
He skated on the wet turf and focused through the rain drops to catch a 43-yard touchdown pass from Justin Cox in the second quarter.
He logged key minutes at free safety and also moved to quarterback late in the game to help the Green Wave preserve the victory.
"We told him we were going to put the game in his hands and putting the pressure on you, and he responded and did it," Chambless said.
Carr rushed for 49 yards before a fumbled exchange in the final three minutes nearly cost the Green Wave (3-1).
But following a 35-yard pass from quarterback Earnest Harmon to Terrance Barron, West Point''s defense held to set off the celebration.
"That Shannon loss made us a different team," Carr said. "The guys said if we want it we have to play for it. We had to become men tonight, and we became men tonight and played ball."
West Point won despite having a 61-yard scoring run by Carr called back because of a clipping penalty.
Carr said he was glad he was asked about the Shannon game because he reiterated that that game humbled West Point and allowed it to re-focus. He said the team hopes to use the lessons it learned from that loss to extend its winning streak.
West Point coach Chris Chambless said his players used the off week after the loss to Shannon to regroup. He said the effort has been there in victories against Columbus, Starkville, and Noxubee County.
"We told them (after the Shannon game) we''re not going to fire anybody and we''re not going to replace anybody," said Chambless, whose team played without running back Xavier Hogan and defensive lineman Tommy Keys. "We told them we were just going to work on what we through we needed to work on. They have responded and have worked their tails off."
Noxubee County coach M.C. Miller said the wet conditions and West Point''s defense gave his offense fits.
The soggy field hampered the Tigers'' speed in the backfield and limited the effectiveness of starting quarterback Jared Johnson.
Noxubee County (4-1) didn''t start to click on offense until senior Earnest Harmon, who played running back for most of the game, moved to quarterback.
When he did, the Tigers showed flashes of the passing fireworks that helped them win the Class 4A state title last season.
Without senior Vincent Sanders, who is still out with a fractured jaw, Barron emerged as a possible receiving threat. The sophomore had seven catches for 198 yards, including a nifty diving catch by the Tigers'' sidelines to start the fourth quarter.
"He has been doing well all year," Miller said of Barron.
Still, touchdown runs of 5 yards by Harmon and 28 yards by Patreon Hopkins weren''t enough for Noxubee County to extend its winning streak.
"We had a chance, but we just played so bad in the first half," Miller said. "I am not taking anything away from them because a good teams makes you play bad."
Leading 6-0, West Point seized the momentum in the third quarter on a 76-yard kick return by Gary Hughes.
A would-be tackler tried to take Hughes down from behind near midfield, but Hughes said he shook him off "like a fish" and kept going.
"Jeremy Cannon just told me to follow him and I had the trust in him to take me all the way," Hughes said.
Noxubee County committed the first of three fumbles in the half on the ensuing kickoff. West Point capitalized and used a 4-yard touchdown run by Cox to make it 20-0 with 8 minutes, 55 seconds left to go in the quarter.
"Jeremy Cannon just told me to follow him and I had the trust in him to take me all the way," Hughes said. "The hole just busted open and I took it in for the touchdown."
a would-be tackler grabbed his shirt from behind and tried to take him down around midfield, but Hughes said he shook the attempt off "like a fish" and took it all the way.
"We are together now," Hughes said. "(In the Shannon game) we had a lot of problems, but we have fixed all of our problems and are ready to play ball."
Noxubee County opted to kick the ball to West Point to start the game. Miller said he hoped to pin the Green Wave deep and win the battle of field position before the field got too wet.
The Tigers got their chance in spite of the rain. Unfortunately, they couldn''t cash in two chances inside the 20 in the final five minutes of the first half.
On the first possession, Johnson hit Harmon with a 2-yard pass play on fourth down that came up just short of the first down inside the 5.
A 13-yard return by Hopkins set the Tigers up at the Green Wave 10 on the second attempt with 1:35 left before halftime.
But the Tigers gained only 1 yard on first down and following two incompletions, Virges sacked Johnson to help West Point take a knee for the final two plays of the half.
"We told them if we held them to two touchdowns we would win," Chambless said. "I''d like to thank the fans for coming out in this monsoon. We could hear them, and they were totally behind us. Without them we couldn''t do what we do."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.