October 9, 2010 11:46:00 PM
WEST POINT -- A game that appeared to be well in hand for the West Point High School football team on Friday night very nearly swerved out of control.
But West Point tightened up at the end of its Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 1 game against Oxford to earn a 22-20 victory.
The Green Wave (7-1, 3-1 region) recovered a fumble on a two-point conversion attempt with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining to stop Oxford (4-3), which had just orchestrated a 75-yard scoring drive to pull within one play of sending the game into extra minutes.
"Oxford is a really good football team," West Point High coach Chris Chambless said. "I guess I''m the only one, with my coaches and players, who believes that."
If Oxford was supposed to have been outclassed by West Point, coach Johnny Hill''s squad didn''t get the memo. The Chargers hung 378 yards total offense on West Point, including 301 through the air.
Senior quarterback Guy Cameron Billups delivered 287 of those yards despite never finding a steady rhythm. West Point''s defensive line knocked Billups down a few times, defensive backs swatted away passes, and Billups was off the mark several times.
"We made some mistakes in different spots, but, all in all, I thought we played well," Hill said.
Even on the Chargers'' last drive to pull within striking distance, the passing game was spotty. Billups was 3 of 7 on that drive with a pair of huge third-down conversions. A West Point pass interference call kept the drive alive.
"They did a really good job of pass protection and we started coming off the edge and started hurrying (Billups) a little bit," Chambless said. "But he put the ball where it needed to be a lot and his receivers made some plays. Those stop-and-go routes and hanging it up to 6-foot-6-inch receivers, that''s tough to stop."
A 15-yard touchdown pass to Stan Ivy gave Oxford its final hope before the fumble took it all away.
Ivy had four catches for 57 yards. Senior wide receiver Deshaun McNeal had nine catches for 167 yards. Billups went 15 of 34, threw two touchdowns, and caught one from McNeal.
Not to be outdone on its home field, West Point posted 258 rushing yards on the ground to keep Oxford moving backward. The bulk of West Point''s 84 passing yards came when senior wideout Will Harrell plucked a sure interception from the hands of a cornerback in the fourth quarter for a 39-yard gain.
West Point quarterback Justin Cox began a monster game in the second quarter by splitting the defense down the middle for a 92-yard touchdown run. Cox had a team-high 147 rushing yards. He also hit senior receiver Jamarius Tallie for a 15-yard score.
"We''re going to have to do a better job of tackling, but they''ve got some good athletes," Hill said.
Senior defensive lineman Vontarrius Dora proved West Point''s athletes could do more than run, notching two sacks and recovering the fumbled two-point conversion to put the game out of reach.
West Point will continue its district schedule Friday when it travels to Lake Cormorant.
1. Columbus Speedway reopens Nov. 12 LOCAL SPORTS
2. Mississippi Roundup: West Point, West Lowndes post critical region wins HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS