December 22, 2018 11:03:44 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
West Point High School football coach Chris Chambless had an extra advantage when coaching his senior class this season.
Chambless' son, Jake, was a senior quarterback. Since he knew his son so well, it led to a deeper understanding and bond with others on the team.
"When we got them as ninth-graders, we knew this could be a special class," Chambless said. "They stayed together. They worked together. As a class, they may have had a better work ethic than any other class I have been around. We knew their time would come as they moved along and worked their way up the ranks."
This season, those seniors helped lead West Point to a 14-1 record and a third straight Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A State championship.
As a result, Chambless is being honored today as The Dispatch's Large Schools All-Area Coach of the Year.
"Playing for coach Chambless and the other coaches out here is the best thing that has ever happened to me," West Point senior safety Tyler Rupert said. "They genuinely care about us. They give that extra push to make sure you are giving your very best. Every Friday night, we come out, motivated, prepared. It's just been a lot of fun. A lot of people would like to be in this position."
Thanks in large part to the running back tandem of Marcus Murphy, West Point had few issues winning state championships in 2016 and 2017. This season was different. The Green Wave won two regular-season victories by one point en route to the program's 10th state championship.
"This class just had a juice factor," Chambless said. "They had the highest amount of juice possible. They played hard on every snap. That's the thing the coaches have preached from the beginning of the season. If you mess up, go hard on the next play. This team was not the most talented one we have had had. But they had the juice.
"They would consistently go hard every play for four quarters. That's why this season had a little bit of it all. We had comebacks, down times, one-point wins. It seemed liked in every game something would happen that would trigger us."
Chambless likes to call himself "the caretaker" of one of the state's most storied programs. This is the second the Green Wave have reeled off three consecutive championships.
After Chambless led the squad to the 2010 state championship, there were a couple of flirtations with another title before things fell into place.
"There is nothing like putting on the West Point uniform and playing before our fans on a Friday night," West Point senior wide receiver John Facella said. "Everybody gets involved. Football is always a conversation all around town during the fall. You take pride in being part of that. It means a lot as seniors when you uphold the tradition.
"Just have a lot of trust in coach Chambless and all the coaches. They are doing to do everything to make sure you succeed on the field and in life."
The community aspect isn't lost on Chambless. He was an assistant under Dennis Allen before taking over as head coach.
"This award is a community award more than anything else," Chambless said. "This place is special. That goes from the administration at the school, to the coaches, to the players, then to the fans. Everybody in this town comes together and is working to make the football program the best it can be.
"We never take for granted the support. It's incredible, and it's not like this most places. We have something unique going that is for sure. Now there is an expectation that is for sure. But everybody works together to make sure that expectation is met."
Next season, West Point will look for more leaders and face a new series of questions. For three seasons, Murphy was the answer to many of them. This season, West Point had to a dig a little deeper and rely on new faces to maintain that championship standard.
Now, they want more.
"We feel like we should be the No. 1 team in 5A every year," West Point junior running back Brandon Harris said. "When the season ends, we got two days off and then it was back to the weight room. That's the coach Chambless way. We don't take any shortcuts. We don't settle. It's all about winning a championship."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.