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West Point football team to play in showdown in Florida

 

Adam Minichino

 

Make your plans now, the West Point High School football team is gearing up for a road trip. 

 

The Mississippi High School Activities Association defending Class 5A state champion Green Wave will take on Mainland (Fla.) at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 in Daytona Beach, Fla., to kick off the Gridiron Challenge at Daytona Municipal Stadium. 

 

Three more games featuring teams from Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and Texas will take place Aug. 28. The event is being put on by Billy Fleming and Gridiron Productions, a company based in Florida. The company also is putting on an event in September in Louisiana featuring teams from Florida and Louisiana. 

 

Chambless was in Daytona Beach earlier this week ironing out last-minute details for the trip. He said he and the players are looking forward to being a part of the showcase. 

 

"It is appealing to bring the guys somewhere they have never been and to play a good team like Mainland," Chambless said. "It is just going to be a good experience. It is hard to turn down because you don''t want to take an opportunity away from the kids and the community." 

 

Chambless said West Point was originally scheduled to play a game in the state of Georgia in week two, but he said that game fell through. He said Gridiron Promotions learned the team had an opening and invited it to be involved in the inaugural event at Daytona Municipal Stadium, a 10,000-seat venue that is home to the Bethune-Cookman University football team. 

 

West Point, which went 14-1 en route to winning the state title in 2009, will play Itawamba Agricultural High School at 5 p.m. Aug. 14 in a jamboree at Mississippi State. It will play host to Shannon at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20 in its season opener. Last season, Shannon was the only team to beat West Point. 

 

The Green Wave should face a challenge from Class 6A Mainland, which went 9-3 in the state of Florida''s largest classification and spent a few weeks in the RivalsHigh 100 last season. State runner-up DeLand defeated Mainland in the second round of the state playoffs. Florida State commitment Cortez Davis, a defensive back, and running back Marlin Lane, who will play football at Clemson, will lead Mainland. 

 

At noon Aug. 28 in Florida, Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central will take on Dallas (Texas) Skyline. Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Day will play Jeffersonville (Ga.) Twiggs County, and Cocoa (Fla.) High will play Olive Branch in the last game. 

 

Chambless said Fleming hopes to bring the Gridiron Challenge to other parts of the Southeast. He said Fleming is in the process of securing the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., and Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., just to name two, for games in the next few years. 

 

Chambless said there also is the possibility of bringing a similar event to the Golden Triangle area. 

 

For now, though, Chambless is making sure all of the details are handled so his team and its fans can make an 11-hour journey to Florida seem just like another trip. He said he never has traveled this far to play a game, and that he likely won''t do it again. He said the West Point coaches are stressing to their players that they treat the game as an "experience" and not to get too hyped up by it. He said the game against Mainland won''t be any different from the team''s other non-region games against Shannon, Columbus, Starkville, and Noxubee County. 

 

"We know it will be a good test to prepare us for our region," Chambless said. Chambless hopes SuperTalk Starkville 100.9 WKBB will be able to broadcast the game against Mainland (Fla.). He also said Fleming is working to try to line up a national television package for the games. 

 

Chambless said the people in Daytona Beach have "bent over backward" to help him make sure all of the details (hotel rooms, chaperones, meals, etc.) are arranged. He also praised the work of Ken Fowler, the president of the Green Wave Touchdown Club, for working behind the scenes and assisting with the preparation. 

 

"He is one of the hardest workers," Chambless said of Fowler. "He gets stuff done and keeps the best interests of the kids in mind. He is not the only one. There are so many people who are making this thing possible." 

 

Fowler, who has helped support the West Point High football program since 1979, expects the community to travel with the team. He said he wouldn''t be surprised to see 500-600 people make the trip. 

 

"At the state championship game (against Wayne County last year) we had a little more than 5,000 people (in Jackson)," Fowler said. "That is amazing for that many people to make the two-and-a-half to three-hour trip. I think we will have a lot of people (at the game against Mainland)." 

 

Fowler said he is working with Chambless and the Gridiron Challenge Foundation to help coordinate accommodations for fans. He said some people in West Point are making arrangements to provide buses to take fans to the game. 

 

"There is a lot of excitement around the community," Fowler said. "People stand behind the Green Wave football team. It makes me proud that we have a good enough program and that people think enough about us to invite us to play in their Classic." 

 

Chambless also said the school and event are looking for sponsors. He said he is working with local businesses to try to secure a name sponsor for the four-game package. 

 

"We want to perform well because we know people will be looking at it," Chambless said. "We think it will be a boost for our community and our program." 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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