November 6, 2009 9:16:00 AM
WEST POINT -- Tommy Keys and his defensive linemates don''t need an elaborate answer to explain their success.
Like their counterparts on the offensive line, Keys and the rest of the West Point High School defensive linemen have a one-track mind and they explode from there.
"You''ve got to want to first," Keys said. "Everybody else relies on us because if we get blown back everybody else is going to get blown back."
Keys and his linemates have won the majority of the battles up front this season, which explains why West Point is in position to wrap up a perfect district season.
The Green Wave will try to finish what they started at 7 tonight when they play host to Hernando in a Class 5A, Region 1, District 2 game.
West Point (9-1, 6-0 district) already has secured the No. 1 seed in the district. Hernando (7-3, 4-2), which lost to New Hope in overtime last week, needs a win and a loss by Oxford (5-5, 4-2) against Saltillo tonight to earn the No. 3 seed.
As successful as West Point has been running the ball this season, the defense, led up front by Keys, juniors Deismon Robinson and Vontarrius Dora, and senior Curtis Virges has played an equally important role in helping the team stay focused on its goal of winning a state title.
"They go up against each other every day," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "It just makes us better. They take a lot of pride in making our offensive line better, and our offensive line takes a lot of pride in making our defensive line better. It just helps on Friday night."
Chambless said he knew the Green Wave as a whole, as well as the defensive line, had the pieces to be successful. The maturation of the defensive line has been just one area in which West Point has improved through the course of the season.
"We knew it was going to take a while, and we''re not where we want to be," Chambless said. "It is a testament to how hard they work. They work hard in the weight room and they work hard on the field. They want to win, and that''s what it takes."
Keys, who is 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, played on the offensive line as a freshman. He credits assistant coach Kendall Pickens for working with the defensive linemen on hand technique and their footwork. He said both are essential ingredients to controlling the line of scrimmage.
"We have played better than most people expected us to," Keys said. "We didn''t have any returning starters who played the whole season on defensive line last year. People just didn''t think we were going to be experienced enough. We have done the right thing every day and worked hard."
Dora, who is 6-4, 230 pounds, said the defensive linemen take a lot of pride in their work and their work rate. Last season, Dora played nose guard. He used the offseason to improve his upper and lower body strength and to add 15 pounds to his frame. He said the constant drilling the players do in practice makes everyone better.
"I have improved on everything from over the summer because we work hard every day in practice," Dora said. "I got faster (with his hands and with his feet)."
Chambless said it helps all four defensive linemen are athletic and quick. He said the offensive line makes the defensive line better and vice versa, which has allowed the Green Wave bounce back from a season-opening loss at Shannon to secure the district title.
"You can''t play for West Point and try to hide your way through a season," Chambless said. "You''re either going to work or you''re not going to be around. Our guys work extremely hard and they take it serious every day. If the focus is not going to be there, they are not going to be on the field. They take their job serious."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.