August 23, 2014 11:47:00 PM
WEST POINT -- Dason Thomas wanted the ball.
During a timeout prior to a crucial fourth down in the third quarter against Grenada, West Point High School's quarterback let his coaches know it.
"We had to have 4 yards, and Dason looks at us and says, 'Coach, call the QB keeper,' " West Point coach Chris Chambless said, "so we did."
Thomas gained the 4 yards and led the team on a 15-play, 68-yard scoring drive that tailback Lacequiu Starks capped with the clinching touchdown to propel West Point to a 21-16 win Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
"It was tough. They're a good team," Thomas said. "When we needed the yards on that fourth down, I trusted my line that we could get the yards. That's all it was."
Thomas' 4-yard scamper punctuated a nearly flawless night for the senior. The 5-foot-8, 160-pounder opened the scoring in the first half with a 77-yard scoring strike to senior wide receiver Steffon Moore. He added a 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter before keeping West Point's game-clinching drive alive midway through the third quarter.
"It felt good to help the team pull out a victory," said Thomas, who had 192 yards and two touchdowns. "That's all that matters."
The exploits of Thomas and Starks, who rushed for a game-high 112 yards on 21 carries, helped West Point fend off a Grenada team that nearly rallied from a 12-point deficit. With West Point leading 21-9 early in the fourth quarter, the Chargers cut the lead to 21-16 on a 10-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Kesner Spencer. That set up a possible game-winning drive in the waning moments, as Grenada took possession at its 10-yard line with 3 minutes, 53 seconds remaining. But West Point's defense stood tall, allowing one first down before forcing a turnover on downs to put the game on ice.
"Our defense stepped up, especially in the fourth quarter," Chambless said. "Grenada has a good team, and we knew they could run the football. But our defense got the stop when we had to have it."
Grenada, coming off a 9-3 season under coach Ashley Kuhn, imposed its will at times with a rushing attack that collected 212 yards, but the Chargers were unable to sustain momentum due to a number of factors, including penalties. The Chargers were penalized nine times for 75 yards. Two of those penalties wiped out touchdown runs of 9 and 26 yards.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot so much," said Kuhn, who served as West Point High's offensive coordinator from 2003-05. "It's frustrating because the penalties called against us were so big. Any time you get a touchdown called back, it hurts. To have two called back, that's hard to recover from. But credit goes to West Point. They've got a good team."
Grenada, which trailed 7-0 after one quarter, took a brief lead on the strength of special teams play. Kicker Daniel Martin booted a 41-yard field goal early in the second quarter to trim the lead to 7-3, while Brandon Tillman returned a punt 41 yards for a touchdown to give Grenada a 9-7 cushion. It was the Chargers' only lead. Thomas' 10-yard touchdown run erased the deficit.
West Point will play host to South Panola at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Walker on Twitter @BWonStateBeat
1. MSU has 28 players in Class of 2015 with one week to go COLLEGE SPORTS
2. New Hope girls go to shootout to beat Saltillo HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. MSU Football 2015 Commitment List COLLEGE SPORTS
4. MSU, Ole Miss will renew SEC's oldest rivalry COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Summers helps Rebels rally past Bulldogs COLLEGE SPORTS