December 6, 2009 1:06:00 AM
JACKSON - Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for the West Point High School football team.
Denied a touchdown on a 12-play drive that ultimately fizzled out on the opposing 14, the Green Wave shook it off on their next drive and went 13 plays.
Lakenderic Thomas'' 9-yard run on first down was the spark West Point needed Saturday to take the lead and go on to a 35-14 victory in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state title game at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The victory helped West Point (14-1) post its 14th consecutive victory and give the Green Wave their sixth state title in the program''s history.
The title was the first for Chris Chambless, who took over for Dennis Allen in 2005 after the Green Wave won their last title. West Point beat Wayne County 17-15 to win that championship.
"We overcame a lot of stuff this year," Chambless said. "One of our offensive linemen (sophomore Tyler Wallace) died before school was out last year. We faced a lot of adversity, but we fought through it and it made us better."
Chambless said the Green Wave promised Tyler''s family that it was going to play West Point football and try to win a championship. He said the title provided some closure to the Wallace family and the football program.
"Justice," Chambless said when asked how winning the title felt. "We have been close. The first year I was coach we were very close and we lost a player to injury. The second year we had the task of beating a team twice and we couldn''t do it. Last year, we had six turnovers in the first round and got beat 13-0. We worked just as hard every year, but this year felt good to me because our guys were so focused and practiced so hard and did exactly what we wanted them to do. We did have bumps in the road, but the focus was there and when you coached them they responded to everything."
A 2-yard scoring run by Wayne County''s Dric Jones tied the game with 5 minutes, 29 seconds to play in the first quarter.
But West Point answered that score with a trademark drive that helped turn the momentum.
"It is our brand of football. We need to copyright it," senior running back Xavier Hogan said. "It is West Point football. No one can play it like us."
West Point''s defense held Wayne County to three and out after failing to score on its 12-play drive. The offense then took over and paced by Carr, who rushed for 13 yards on three rushes off the direct snap, and Thomas, who capped his 37-yard contribution to the drive with a 9-yard plunge to make it 14-7 with 2:56 left before halftime.
"The train went waah, waah," junior quarterback Justin Cox said. "It was a momentum-builder. Our boys just went hard every play that drive."
West Point''s time of possession edge in the first half (13 minutes, 53 seconds to 10:07) wasn''t more dominating because it needed only one play to score on its first drive. Cox hit senior wide receiver Michael Carr near the right sideline and Carr, a Mississippi State commitment did the rest. He eluded a tackle and cut back across the field for a 64-yard touchdown. Kwame Williams'' kick made it 7-0 at the 9:53 mark of the first quarter.
Wayne County (11-4) did its best West Point impersonation, driving 11 plays and 70 yards on its next possession to tie the game. The War Eagles capitalized on a facemask penalty and a late hit out of bounds penalty on the Green Wave to move into position. Wayne County''s Jones punched the ball in from 2 yards on third down, and Garrett Reynolds'' extra point tied it with 5:29 to go in the first quarter.
West Point''s 12-play drive followed. Cox connected with Carr on a 17-yard pass play to convert the first third down. Cox gained 4 yards on the next third down to keep the drive alive. But Carr slipped and fell and had a pass from Cox knocked from his hands on fourth down to give the ball back to the War Eagles with 11:04 to go in the second quarter.
The Green Wave defense came up big again on the War Eagles'' next series. Justin Bobo stopped quarterback Demarcus Henderson for a 1-yard gain on third-and-3 to set the stage for fourth-and-2 at the Green Wave 28. Rasharid Bowman then gained only 1 yard on the next play to end the drive.
In the second half, Carr provided a little more fuel to the fire, returning the opening kick 78 yards to help make it 21-7. The lead grew even though West Point had another 12-yard drive stall. Cox converted a third-and-16 with a 20-yard run. He also hit Carr on a turn and go for 35 yards on third-and-9 to help move the ball to the War Eagles'' 13. But Cox was stopped on fourth-and-4.
Thomas (21 carries, 98 yards) added a 32-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and Hogan fittingly capped the Green Wave scoring with a 14-yard run with 4:44 to go in the game.
"We felt like we had to do it for Jacoby, Tyler Wallace, all of our family members who are gone, and all of the West Point fans," Hogan said. "I can''t explain the feeling. It is like a gorilla jumped off my back. I have been working all of my life for this. There is no greater feeling."
West Point finished with 215 yards on 49 carries. The total was even more impressive considering the Green Wave played without junior running back Jacoby Lee, who was injured last week in the North Half State title victory against New Hope.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
Cheryl Smith commented at 12/6/2009 8:25:00 AM:
Congratulations to West Point High School and it's BIG GREEN MACHINE!
CSIMS commented at 12/7/2009 3:42:00 PM:
Go Green Wave you make our town pride
1. Stevens' work in summer pays off in college offers HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Former MSU RB Robinson arrested LOCAL SPORTS
3. Running backs have chance to shine for EMCC COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Coaches excited to kick season off at jamboree HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Starkville High's Gay accepts invitation to All-American Bowl HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS