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West Point has had success through years running ball

 

Adam Minichino

 

Ground Taylor (Davis), Ground Chuck, Ground Allen, Ground Chambless. 

 

If you were going to build a timeline to trace the development of West Point High School''s love for running the football, it would have to date to the 1960s when Bubba Davis and Skip Taylor were players for the Green Wave. 

 

As a junior offensive lineman in 1963, Davis recalls a game against New Albany or Pontotoc when West Point ran the same running play nine consecutive times. 

 

The thinking back then was, "Run it until they stop it." 

 

That sentiment has survived coaching changes and the advent and subsequent explosion of the passing game and continues to thrive at West Point High School. 

 

The running game was a key component of the Green Wave''s last title in 2005. West Point (13-1) hopes it will play just as important a role at 7 p.m. Saturday when it takes on Wayne County (11-3) in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state title game at Mississippi Memorial Coliseum in Jackson. 

 

In 2005, West Point defeated Wayne County 17-15 to win its fifth state title. The first four came under head coach Bubba Davis, who worked with offensive coordinator Skip Taylor to win state championships in 1982 and 1987-89.  

 

"We ran the football a good bit like what we''re doing here," said Davis, who recently completed his second season as football coach at Columbus High. "We felt like we had to run the football, play good defense, and be solid in the kicking game. We had some great running backs through that period of time." 

 

Davis referred to the duo of Robert Smith and Shawn Sykes, who earned the nickname "Thunder and Lightning" at West Point High. He said the tradition of great running backs continued throughout his time at the school, and even was in place when he was blocking paths for Taylor, who was a fullback on those West Point teams in the early 1960s. 

 

Davis said Taylor designed the West Point offense and deserves a lot of credit for the schemes that helped the Green Wave develop their dominant ground attack. 

 

"We grew up playing that way," Davis said. "That''s what we knew. We were pretty good at that and evolved into that when he became offensive coordinator." 

 

Dennis Allen, who worked as an assistant coach for Davis at West Point and then former Starkville High coach Chuck Friend (back-to-back undefeated state champions in 1995-95), coached West Point to its last title. He said his philosophy as coach of the Green Wave was similar to Davis'' brand of football. 

 

In fact, he remembers joking with an assistant coach following West Point''s 24-14 come-from-behind victory against Oxford in the Class 4A North Half State title game in ''05. He said while some teams would have spread the offense and threw the football to try to catch up in a hurry, West Point''s idea was to insert another tight end and another fullback and to run the football even more. 

 

Allen said Friend didn''t enjoy the nickname "Ground Chuck," but it fit his style and it was appropriate for the Green Wave, too. 

 

"We believed in blocking somebody and running over somebody and getting 3 yards and a cloud of dust," said Allen, who is now the athletic director at West Point High. "Nowadays new coaches come in, and it is not wrong, and they get in the shotgun and snap it and throw it all over the place. That''s great if it works for you. But we always believed we should run the ball, be physical, and be tougher than the guy across from them." 

 

The sentiment has held true because football is a game of blocking and tackling, and Allen said the team that does those things the best usually has a very good chance of winning. The point totals might not light up scoreboards, but Allen said that doesn''t matter as long as his team wins. 

 

West Point has done that ever since it suffered through a string of losing seasons that started in the early 1990s and went until 2001 (first-round playoff loss to Shannon). The Green Wave won two games in 1999, three in 2000, and four in 2001 before losing to D''Iberville in the 2002 Class 4A state title game. 

 

Allen said the playoff berth in 2001 fueled his team''s desire to change its losing ways. From there, he said things took off and the Green Wave started to roll -- mostly on the ground, of course. 

 

Chambless, who worked for Allen as a defensive coordinator, took over as head coach for the 2006 season. His offensive coordinator, Lee J. Grisham, also believes in running the football, so it has been easy for the Green Wave to maintain the tradition. 

 

Allen credits the administration and the community for making West Point a great place to work. 

 

"It is easy to coach here," Allen said. "You have an administration that supports you. When we won a championship in 1982, the town liked it and pulled town together. All of the town people have pulled together for one common goal. Somewhere down the line somebody has a relative who probably has been involved in a state championship, or has almost gotten to one or has been successful in sports. There is some pressure on the kids to do well, but it''s a good pressure because they''re expected to do well." 

 

Part of that pressure is to run the football. Allen said the names might have changed, but the methods at West Point are still the same. He hopes Chambless will get a chance Saturday to win a state title and experience what he called one of the best feelings in his life. 

 

"Our kids wanted it in 2005," Allen said. "It''s not that Wayne County didn''t. We just made a few more plays at critical times. They made plays, too." 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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