December 4, 2009 8:57:00 AM
JACKSON -- Winning a state championship is a lot like assembling a puzzle.
From offense to defense to special teams, coaches have to tinker with and fine tune parts of the game plan to maximize their squad''s chances for success.
Developing a dominant offensive line is just another piece to that puzzle.
West Point High School offensive line coach Roger Burton said the work done by this season''s linemen has made the Green Wave''s season even more satisfying.
"It is basically hand-to-hand contact and a battle of wills," Burton said. "You have to teach them to impose their will on somebody else before they get somebody''s will imposed on them."
West Point (13-1) will try accomplish that goal one more time this season when it takes on Wayne County (11-3) at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state title game at Mississippi Memorial Coliseum in Jackson.
There''s no secret West Point will try to run the football against Wayne County. The Green Wave have piled up 3,822 yards in 14 games en route to a Region 1, District 2 title and a North Half State title. Their goal Saturday will be to add a sixth state title to the program''s coffers.
Senior running back Xavier Hogan said heart is the primary reason the Green Wave offensive linemen are so successful.
"They are not the biggest, they are not the strongest, they are not the fastest, but they have a lot of heart," Hogan said. "We take pride in running the ball. That''s is our favorite thing to do. We are trying to perfect it."
Hogan (93 carries, 619 yards) said the offensive line''s ability to do its job even when opponents know what is coming makes the success even more fun, and the Green Wave have had plenty of reasons to smile. Junior running back Lakenderic Thomas leads West Point with 1,119 yards rushing, while classmates Jacoby Lee (running back) and Justin Cox (quarterback) have rushed for 811 and 597 yards, respectively.
"They know what is coming but they just can''t stop it," Hogan said. "We have been working on it so long. We have been doing the same thing over and over and over and we have been getting better and better and better at it every game, so it is going to be hard to stop."
West Point High coach Chris Chambless said the work offensive linemen Lee Crowley, Willie Swift, LeDerrius Taylor, Lamont Randle, Seth White, Jonathon Jones, and Desmond Boyd and tight end Michael Bush have done in the weight room has given them a foundation from which they can build their dominance.
"You have to be physical in practice," Chambless said. "We try to be physical as much as we can in practice every week to keep it going. You just can never let up on them."
Chambless said the coaches constantly push their offensive linemen and all of their players until what they do -- pulling tires, running, lifting weights -- becomes second nature and the players understand they have to do those things to have a chance to become champions.
Burton said he and the other coaches also try to teach the offensive linemen to play with passion and to play hard. It might sound like an easy task, but he said the process involves pushing players until they "break," even hate the coaches, before they build them back up.
Once that happens, Burton said the coaches stress proper technique and footwork and how those skills have to be combined with effort and an aggressive mind-set to form the engine that drives West Point football.
"If they don''t play with effort they don''t play," Burton said. "You can''t play on the West Point offensive line if you don''t give effort and you don''t give the position the respect it deserves and that is needed to play it."
Burton said the offensive line has produced more than its share of standouts, including two of the latest: Avis Shelton and Quartney Cox at East Mississippi Community College. He said the current group of linemen feels it has a responsibility to live up to that tradition.
"I am proud of them, but they have got one more step, and they are ready to take it, Burton said. "I don''t feel like we will have any problem with effort Saturday."
Hogan agrees and said he and his classmates won''t be happy just to have played the final games of their high school football careers in Jackson.
"We have been waiting on this for a long time," Hogan said. "The seniors know we''re not going to get another chance, so we have to make it count."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
bigbubba commented at 12/6/2009 7:51:00 AM:
Maybe columbus coach's can show up and learn a few things. Columbus coach's make sure you leave your egoes at the gate. They will be put in check. Pay attention to discipline, coaching on sideline(not just yelling and screaming), strenth and conditioning, COACHING!!!
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