September 7, 2018 10:46:51 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Chris Chambless doesn't believe in wasting time.
Instead of allowing a loss to fester and ruin a season, Chambless talked with the West Point High School football team Friday night immediately following its 23-7 loss to Starkville. The defeat ended the 30-game winning streak for the two-time reigning Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A State champions.
"When you experience a loss -- and you haven't experienced one in a while -- it takes a while to get over it," Chambless said. "But the quicker you get over it and learn from it, you can either learn a lesson from it or you can let it drag you down. You have to learn a lesson from it."
Chambless and his coaches let that talk sink in before the players returned earlier this week to review film of the loss. Like other coaches are fond of saying, "the film doesn't lie," which gave Chambless and his assistant coaches plenty of chances to show the players "little things" they need to improve on.
The review didn't focus only on what the Green Wave didn't do. Chambless acknowledged West Point did its share of things well in building a 7-6 halftime lead against the team that is ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press' prep rankings this week and is considered a favorite to challenge for the MHSAA Class 6A State championship.
Like Starkville and Noxubee County, West Point traditionally plays some of the toughest opponents in its non-region schedule. West Point will use its bye week this week to regroup before playing host to Noxubee County next week. That matchup should offer the Green Wave a great test against another opponent that is considered a favorite to compete for a state title (in Class 4A).
To be there at the end in December, Chambless said the Green Wave can't wallow after the loss and feel sorry for themselves that they won't get to extend a winning streak.
"We have to realize we have a whole season ahead of us," Chambless said. "We still have district play. We have just as good a shot as anybody. In the back of our heads we are the defending champs, and we have to act like that."
Chambless and his players often refer to the tradition that has allowed the program to win nine state titles. This year's seniors would love an opportunity to help the program win three-straight state championships for the first time since 1987-89. It wasn't until 2005 that West Point regained its championship footing. Since then, the Green Wave have added four more titles to their trophy case. Chambless said the players returned to practice this week with a great attitude. He feels the players are mature enough to understand the season hasn't been ruined because of one loss. Chambless also likes the fact that many of his players feel there is a lot of room still to grow.
"Friday night after the game I had a couple of guys come up to me and say, 'Coach, I didn't play well tonight,' or 'I didn't do this,' " Chambless said. "They know. They already know. You worry about the ones that don't know. Those are the ones you want to try to wake up and tell, 'You have to see this.' The ones that know are the mature guys. They take things really serious and want to do right. That is what we pride ourselves on."
Chambless said the Green Wave always have more players who "know" the importance of correcting mistakes and getting better. That's why he is eager to get back on the field to see how his players respond and use the program's tradition to motivate them the rest of the season.
"In 2016, we went 14-1 and won a state championship, and that one loss was pivotal for us that year, and I think it is going to be the same way this year," Chambless said. "Like I said, you're either going to learn a lesson or you're going to let it drag you down the rest of the way. The one thing I know about our guys is we learn from things, and I expect that to happen now.
"We're going to carry on. I told them the other day that is what champions do."
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. You can email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.