August 8, 2018 9:08:09 PM
Editor's Note: This is the latest installment in a series that will feature some of the area's top prep football players. These players are expected to receive the most attention from college coaches/scouts. The Dispatch will profile a player each day leading up to the start of the regular season Friday, Aug. 17.
WEST POINT -- For senior cornerback Ryan Melton, the West Point High School football team is a lot like a profitable business.
The names and faces may change but the result is still a good bottom line on an annual basis.
"Nothing changes at this program," Melton said. "The goal is to win every game and to win the championship. This my senior year, so it's a little emotional. However, I was just as determined as a sophomore. I wanted to help my team win a championship. Each year, we want to be there at the end. We expect to be there at the end."
In each of his first two seasons on the varsity level, Melton has seen the Green Wave accomplish that final goal.
The school has won 29 of its last 30 games, while garnering back-to-back Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A state championships.
A year ago, the 6-foot-1, 173-pound Melton had 17 total tackles, three interceptions and two punt blocks for a 15-0 team.
"We just had a lot of fun with it (the pressure of being undefeated)," Melton said. "We knew when we played our best game, there was not another team on our level. The team played with an edge. It was not arrogance, it was just confidence. If we do what we are supposed to do, we win the game. It's that simple. It's a great feeling as a player to have that kind of confidence. Even though we lost some great players, we feel like we should take the field with that mentality again this season."
In a transitional year for the defense, West Point assistant coach Roger Burton knows the importance of leadership from Melton for the younger guys.
"His motor is always on high," Melton said. "When you start that senior season, things pick up. He is flying under the radar right now. When the season starts, and we play some games, that won't be the case anymore. He was a big part of what we did last season. Now, he can take those lessons and share them with the younger guys."
Melton said West Point's intense preparation has helped set team apart from the other contenders in each of the past two seasons.
"We hold everybody accountable," Melton said. "If somebody messes up, we are on them to get it right. If you have the young guys staying on the older guys and the older guys staying on the younger guys, that's teamwork. We practice like champions. Last season, the coaches didn't have to stop practice to correct us. That's the point we are trying to get to with this year's team."
From a personal standpoint, the offers are beginning to come in for Melton. During the summer, he spent time at camps at Louisiana-Monroe, Tulane, Central Arkansas and Southern Mississippi.
"The main thing with the camps was working on technique," Melton said. "I made sure not to miss a summer workout at the school, At the camps, I worked in a lot of one-on-one situations to make sure my man coverage keeps improving. By helping myself, that will help my team this season and then help my career after this season is over. If there is something learned at camp, I can share with the younger guys, that's a blessing. The coaches always do a great job of getting us exposure. So you are excited about playing on the next level, but you can let them worry about that. Our main focus right now is working hard in practice and winning that third straight ring."
Burton feels like Melton is just now filling out his body. His knowledge from the film room is high. A combination of good hands, skill and quickness with his feet will make him a threat for other team's passing games.
"He is one of those who is a natural-born leader," Melton said. "Even though we lost some guys off last year's team, there are some quality replacement that he gets to help mentor."
When the season opens Aug. 16 at Columbus, West Point will be risking a two-season, 28-game winning streak. Many have the Green Wave already penciled in as the favorites in Class 5A.
Head coach Chris Chambless said the team will be looking for depth through each of the first four non-region games. On offense, the Green Wave will have several new faces.
"As a defense, our goal is to always punch first," Melton said. "This year, that will be even more important. We got a lot of new guys who will have to step up offense. That means it's on the defense to set the tone for season. We have to have their back until everybody is settled in and ready to win a championship."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.