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West Point ready to test skills for four quarters


Adam Minichino



WEST POINT -- The names change most every year. 


The coaches tinker and tweak positions and schemes. 


But the more changes that appear to hit the West Point High School football program, the more it keeps producing teams that contend for state championships. 


The 2010 edition doesn''t figure to be any different. 


Coming off an impressive two-quarter effort against Itawamba Agricultural School on Saturday, West Point will look to take its game to four quarters at 7:30 tonight when it plays host to Shannon in the season opener for both teams. 


The Mississippi High School Activities Association defending Class 5A state champion Green Wave won 14 games in a row last season after losing at Shannon in the first game of the season. 


That lone loss could make tonight''s game even more special, but West Point High coach Chris Chambless said his team is more concerned about correcting its mistakes from the jamboree and getting better as a football team. 


"You never know until you play a four-quarter game," Chambless said. "Everybody tells us, ''You looked good for those two quarters against Itawamba.'' People don''t realize it is a four-quarter game. Anything can happen in the second half. You don''t know until you play a four-quarter game, but what you can do is set high expectations. If the kids have high expectations for themselves, that will help them push each other along and to play hard for four quarters." 


Chambless'' attitude hasn''t changed from last season. While winning his first state championship as head coach was satisfying, Chambless, who also has assumed the athletic director duties at the school, knows he can''t get complacent because that will send the wrong message. 


The graduation losses of key contributors like Michael Carr, Curtis Virges, Xavier Hogan, and Jeremy Cannon, just to name four, means other players like seniors Justin Cox and Tommy Keys will be looked to to take on bigger roles on each side of the ball.  


Cox, who settled in at quarterback last season, looked extremely comfortable Saturday in a 35-0 victory against Itawamba AHS at the Fall Football Jamboree at Mississippi State''s Davis Wade Stadium. 


"He knows his role, and he knows what is ahead of him," Chambless said. "He performed well for us last year, and his expectations for himself are even greater this year. Our expectations of him are to be a positive leader and to make some things happen when we need to and let everything else happen." 


Chambless said Cox, who recently made a verbal commitment to play football at Mississippi State next season, has expanded in every way as a quarterback, is stronger, and seems to be a little more vocal. 


Cox isn''t sure at what position he will play in college. He also has played free safety at West Point and is willing to do whatever it takes at the next level. But part of the reason he made his commitment when he did was so he could focus on his senior season and the challenge of helping the Green Wave repeat as state champions. 


"I was young last year and I had to fight for a spot," Cox said. "I am lot more confident because it is my senior year and I want another championship. I am trying to go out on top. There is no holding back now." 


Cox knows it will be difficult without Carr, but he is confident he can help pick up some of the slack with running back LaKenderic Thomas and receiver Michael Bush. On defense, he said Keys and Vontarrius Dora will lead the way. 


Keys, a defensive lineman, played well even if the Green Wave were without Dora up front in the jamboree. Chambless said Dora and running back Jacoby Lee, who also didn''t play against Itawamba AHS, will be game-time decisions tonight. 


Even if Dora and Lee don''t play, Keys believes the Green Wave will be ready to handle the challenge of replacing five starters on defense and moving on without Carr and Hogan on offense. He said the Green Wave worked this week to fix incorrect alignments in preparation for Shannon and are looking forward to begin defense of their crown. 


"We just have to play hard and get after it every play," Keys said. "We''re a lot younger and less experienced on both sides of the ball. It is not really that different of a feeling compared to last year. It is our team this year. It is our chance to get a ring." 



Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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