November 10, 2017 11:02:08 AM
WEST POINT -- The anticipation surrounding a first-round playoff game might be too much for some teams.
But the West Point High School football program isn't like other teams.
While there is a sense of relief that the playoffs are finally here, West Point coach Chris Chambless sees his team's game against Callaway at 7 tonight in the first round of the
Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A playoffs as another step.
"You can tell there is a little more sense of urgency," Chambless said Thursday. "But our guys are smart enough to realize it is very easy to lose focus because we know some of the teams we have been playing are down. I think our guys have handled it really well and have come out and put on a show for people on Friday nights and played hard and had fun."
The Green Wave's focus stems from the players' desire to win a second-consecutive state title. That mission has been the driving force behind the play of seniors Marcus Murphy, Chris Calvert, Nate Montgomery, LeDarrius Glover, and the rest of their classmates.
Chambless and his coaches have stressed focus all season. Despite being the state's top-ranked team in The Associated Press weekly poll, Chambless hasn't allowed the Green Wave to relax in practice or on Friday nights. He doesn't intend to let that happen on the first leg of a journey he hopes ends at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with the program's ninth state championship, and first back-to-back titles since 2009-10.
"There is a little more intense focus in practice, a little more listening," Chambless said. "That is not to say they weren't listening to start with, but they are more locked in, so to speak."
Chambless characterized that "locked in" feeling to the attitude when West Point faces Starkville. At this time of the season, that mind-set is elevated another notch, if possible, because a loss will send the Green Wave home. It also will end the seniors' dreams of winning a state title they can call their own.
Chambless said he intended to set the week off on the right note by stressing the importance of focus at practice. But Chambless said his players, including many of the seniors, already had sent that message to the team.
"I felt like my calm self, my old, usual self would have to chew on some tails and run them to try to prove a point, but I didn't have to do any of that," Chambless said. "They have been there ready to go."
Chambless said the season has been even more special because he feels new players have emerged every week to make sure the Green Wave stay in line and remain focused on the final prize.
Callaway (5-7) is coming off a 14-8 loss to Neshoba Central. It earned the No. 4 seed from Region 2 based on its victory against Ridgeland in the regular season.
Chambless said the Green Wave will have to be wary of Mississippi State commit Malik Heath, who was a Dandy Dozen selection by The Clarion-Ledger. The senior wide receiver has 18 catches for 436 yards and seven touchdowns.
Running back Lakenith Thompson fuels the ground game with 1,168 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
Chambless expects the Chargers to come in and try to establish the run. That could be a good sign for West Point, which has relied on the play of its defensive line all season.
West Point is coming off a 63-3 victory against Lewisburg. Its defense allowed only 31 points in a 7-0 run through Region 1. The Green Wave have outscored opponents 518-69
Defensively, Chambless said West Point will have to contend with senior lineman James Williams, who is second on the team with 23 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Senior Makenzie Black leads the team with 25 tackles for loss.
The winner of tonight's game will take on the winner of the game between Germantown and Grenada.
n Sulligent 42, Westbrook Christian 14: At Sulligent, Alabama, the Blue Devils (10-1) rolled to a victory Thursday in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) Class 2A playoffs.
Tyreke Metcalfe had touchdown runs of 75, 47, and 16 yards to help set Sulligent up to face the winner of today's game between Reeltown and Falkville next week in the second round.
Jaron Scott threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. Scott had a 67-yard touchdown pass to C.J. McLemore and a 32-yard touchown pass to McLemore. He scored on a 14-yard run.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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