November 19, 2010 8:42:00 AM
WEST POINT -- Football coaches often find the smallest details to motivate their kids.
When they reach championship status, those programs tend not to need much help re-focusing or getting pumped for a new matchup.
Two steps away from earning a return trip to the state title game, West Point High School football coach Chris Chambless wasn''t looking for bulletin board material as his team prepared for its Mississippi High School Activities Class 5A playoff game against Oxford at 7 tonight.
But Chambless found some ammunition thanks to The Clarion-Ledger.
In its weekly feature highlighting the best prep football games of the week, the state''s biggest newspaper picked Oxford to beat defending Class 5A state champion West Point 24-21. News of that prediction was highlighted on a dry erase board in the team''s locker room and was printed out on several sheets of paper on one of the desks in the football coaches office.
Chambless, though, declined to buy into the hype of the rematch between Region 1 rivals.
"It is an exciting playoff game," Chambless said. "They are a very well-coached, well-disciplined team."
The Green Wave (11-1) edged the Chargers 22-20 on Oct. 8 in West Point. They recovered a fumble on a two-point conversion attempt with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining to stop Oxford (9-3), which had just marched 75 yards to pull within one play of possibly sending the game into overtime.
Oxford, which hasn''t lost since that game, had 378 yards in the loss, including 301 passing. Chambless expects Oxford to play harder tonight on its home field. He also said the Chargers and quarterback Guy Cameron Billups are clicking better on offense, which could present additional problems.
Billups is 172 of 274 for 2,788 yards and 32 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. In the past three games, he is 44 of 51 for 749 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But Chambless likes how his team has improved. The Green Wave have gone on several long bus trips this season, including one to Daytona Beach, Fla., so the two-plus hour trip north shouldn''t faze them. He said the Green Wave are going to remain focused on doing what they do, which is punish opponents with a bruising rushing attack and dictating tempo with an aggressive defense.
"A lot of it at West Point is self motivation because we don''t like to lose," Chambless said. "We''re just going to play as hard as we can and see what happens."
West Point has won the last seven meetings between the teams dating back to 1994. The teams played in the playoffs in 2005-07, with West Point winning at Oxford in 2006.
Tonight, Chambless said the Green Wave will be ready for anything, especially from a team that doesn''t want its season to end on its home field to a heated rival.
"The motivation is we want to keep playing," Chambless said. "We want to keep trying to play the best we can. We''re not ready to go home yet."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.