August 10, 2018 10:38:06 AM
WEST POINT -- West Point High School defensive lineman Jaylen Cungious has been thinking about his final season for a long time.
Coming off back-to-back Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A State championships, Cungious has a lot of emotions as the 2018 approaches because he wants to end his journey on a high note.
"Everybody knows about our success," Cungious said. "They don't know the hard work that goes into having that kind of success. This program is built on excellence. In everything we do, the strive is for perfection. The players took ownership last season and everything just kind of rolled. This year, it's a new team but we have the same expectations.
"The seniors are trying to step up and take ownership of the team. That's the best way for us to be successful."
West Point has lost one game in the last two seasons to push the program's championship total to nine.
The drive for a third-straight title will begin at 8 p.m. Friday when West Point takes on North Panola in the final game of the opening day of the New Hope Jamboree at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium. West Point will open the regular season at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16, at Columbus.
Typically, the West Point defense isn't built around star players. The Green Wave usually have multiple players receive offers to play in college because the program is based on teamwork, chemistry, and the same goals. All of the players are willing to help each other.
"We have been blessed from a pass rusher standpoint the last couple of seasons," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "Big tall guys, who are athletic, quick on their feet. We had a lot of snaps where two maybe three guys were in the backfield when the other team gets ready to throw or hand off.
"You will see a lot of that from Jaylen. He is a veteran. He has started for a long time out there. He's quick and able to disrupt the other team's passing game."
The West Point defense is a mixed bag of returnees and newcomers. The Green Wave won by such large margins last season that a lot of younger players received playing time.
"It's going to be the same West Point defense this year," Cungious said. "Mean, physical, tough in the trenches. We want to fight the other team for every first down. Our goal is perfection. Each day in practice, we are working hard on becoming that complete team."
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Cungious and fellow senior Jaylon Webb are returning starters on the defensive line. Senior Stededric Griffis and junior Donte Smith will complete the quartet.
"We have some new guys along the line," Cungious said. "As seniors, our job is to make sure the younger guys are ready. Last season, the defense was dominant. We want to show we can play on that level and have those kinds of results."
For Cungious, the offseason has been spent attending camps and working on technique.
"These were the last summer workouts," Cungious said. "Playing here has been an incredible experience. Nothing like playing on a Friday night at home in front of pretty much everybody in the community. This team has high goals again this year. We don't talk about championships. However, that is the expectation. After the last couple of seasons, we are supposed to win it all."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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