August 16, 2014 7:44:10 PM
STARKVILLE -- Two of the state's most storied football programs, West Point High and Louisville High, met as part of Saturday's preseason jamboree at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium.
Louisville, second in the state with eight state titles in the playoff era, and West Point, third with seven, traded touchdowns and big plays on Saturday afternoon, battling to a 7-7 tie.
"Two big-time programs and two teams that are pretty good this year," said West Point High head coach Chris Chambless. "Every time we made a play, they made one. And then when they had momentum, we made a play to get it back."
West Point scored first, as the Green Wave controlled the first quuarter on both sides of the ball. The Green Wave defense, which brings back seven starters from a defense that gave up 34 points per game in 2013, looked like a vastly improved unit for much of Saturday's scrimmage. The Wave held Louisville, the defending Class 3A state champion, to just 29 total yards in the first quarter. Offensively, West Point opened the scoring with a six-play, 40-yard drive midway through the first quarter. Senior Qunicy Starks was the workhorse on the drive, carrying the ball four times for 28 yards, setting up a 12-yard touchdown pass from senior QB Dason Thomas to senior Steffan Moore. After Oscar Lemus added the PAT, West Point owned a 7-0 lead.
"We were trying to work on the passing game, trying to throw it a little more this year," said Thomas. "They have a good defense. It was a good test."
Starks led West Point, rushing for 87 yards on 14 carries.
"I felt like I was just getting started," said Starks.
While West Point dominated the opening 12 minutes, Louisville stayed within striking distance, turning the Wave offense away twice on fourth down in Louisville territory in the second quarter.
That allowed the Wildcats to get into an offensive flow, which resulted in an eight-play, 73-yard scoring drive that was capped by the game-tying touchdown, a 36-yard strike from quarterback Dylan Gill to Dontae Jones, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound wide receiver already committed to play at Mississippi State.
"He's a big, physical guy and it's hard to stop him an entire game," said Chambless of Jones. "For the most part, I thought we played well defensively, but he made a play."
Jones, a four-star prospect on recruiting service 247sports.com, finished with four catches for 57 yards and the touchdown. Louisville kicker Corey McCullough added the PAT, tying the score at 7-7 with just over three minutes remaining.
Both teams took turns trying to mount a game-winning drive, but neither succeeded. West Point went three-and-out on its ensuing possession while Louisville reached the West Point 35-yard line before Gill was intercepted by senior defensive back Davin Webb, which effectively ended the scrimmage and preserved the tie.
"It was good to get out and play someone else, especially someone like Louisville," said Chambless. "We made some mistakes, which we will work on, but the effort was good."
West Point finished with 156 total yards, 120 on the ground. Starks led the way with 87 yards while senior Josh Ewing rushed for 32 yards on two carries. Thomas completed four passes for 36 yards and the touchdown.
Louisville, meanwhile, posted 104 total yards with 78 coming through the air.
West Point's junior varsity earned an 8-0 win over Louisville.
West Point opens the 2014 season at home against Grenada on Friday night while Louisville will clash with Jackson Jim Hill.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Walker on Twitter @BWonStateBeat