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. Lessons learned helped Coggin earn promotion COLLEGE SPORTS