November 30, 2017 10:27:38 AM
WEST POINT -- One of the downsides of having senior-laden teams is players sometimes don't get numbers that typically go with their positions.
In the last two seasons, Jason Brownlee, Marcus Murphy, Chris Calvert, Tyler Rupert, Antrayvious Brownlee, EJ Bush, LeDarrius Glover, Brandon Lairy, and Nate Montgomery have had their moments to make Nos. 1-9 shine for the West Point High School football team. Those numbers usually would go to kickers like Jose Lemus and John Facella.
But West Point defensive line coach Roger Burton has the inside story behind why Lemus, a junior, is wearing No. 69. Burton, who hands out numbers to players, said Lemus was kind of an offensive lineman when he moved up to the varsity team as a sophomore, so it was natural for him to get a higher number.
Lemus isn't complaining because he has feels right at home with No. 69. That's because the number his brother, Omar, wore when he played for the Green Wave from 2014-15.
"Between he and I feel proud wearing that number," Jose said.
Lemus has split time with Facella, a junior who also plays wide receiver. Lemus is 30-for-34 on extra points and 1-for-3 in field goals this season, while Facella, who wears No. 15, is 42-for-51 in extra points. Both players hope to get a chance to make their mark at 7 p.m. Saturday when No. 1 seed West Point (14-0) will take on No. 1 seed Hattiesburg (14-0) in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A State title game at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Jose is the third Lemus brother to kick for West Point. Eric, who wore No. 14, kicked for the team from 2011-13. He went on to kick for East Mississippi Community College. Jose said Omar will be in Oxford on Saturday to watch the Green Wave go for their second-straight state title.
Lemus said he doesn't mind the solitary nature of kicking. If you have driven by the West Point High game field or the practice fields at any time this season, you probably saw Lemus practicing his kicks. It is a repetitive effort of kicking, retrieving the football, and kicking again. Lemus feels he has learned to stay focused during the kicking his does to keep his leg sharp. He said he has been known to sing to himself to help the time go by a little faster. Lemus said he doesn't have any favorite songs that he likes to sing, but that he sings anything that pops into his head.
In addition to kicking, Lemus also punts for the Green Wave. He has 11 punts for an average of 31.5 yards. He has placed four kicks inside the 20-yard line. Even though he hasn't had a lot of work, Lemus knows that could change Saturday, which is why he has stayed busy this week making sure he is ready.
"We have come together as one and helped each other," Lemus said. "We have never given up and have kept going forward."
Jose will be the final Lemus to kick for West Point. With another season to go, he isn't taking this year's trip to the state title game for granted because he knows how much winning another title means to the seniors. That's why he wants to do anything he can to make sure his teammates cement their legacy in those smaller numbers.
"I just have to keep working harder, practice more, and keep my mind-set," said Jose, who hopes to kick in college.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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