Defending champs learn lessons well

STARKVILLE – During practice week and then on gameday, West Point players often exhibit a “love-hate” relationship with the coaches.
But when game time comes, they always appreciate what the coaching staff preaches and teaches during practice sessions.
That was evident Saturday afternoon as West Point produced a dominating performance in a jamboree held at Davis Wade Stadium. The defending Class 5A state champions scored on five of six possessions against Itawamba AHS in two quarters of action to win 35-0.
“That’s why we try to keep it physical as possible and why we push them so hard in practice,” said West Point head coach Chris Chambless. “I told them a few days ago that they don’t like us coaches very well. But when we play, they like us then.
“They work hard for us and that’s what it’s all about. They see on gameday why we push them and it becomes second nature for them. We’re gonna continue to do what we always do and so far, it seems to be working.”
As usual, the Green Wave used a stout ground game and a punishing defense. West Point rushed for 252 yards while limiting Itawamba AHS to just two first downs and 13 total yards.
Sophomore tailback Tez Pulliam had two rushing touchdowns for West Point. Quarterback and MSU commit Justin Cox and tailback Lekendrick Thomas each had one rushing touchdown.
Cox rushed for 77 yards while Thomas collected 76 yards on the ground.
West Point opens the season Friday night at home against Shannon, the lone team to defeat the Green Wave last year.
“There’s gonna be a lot of excitement when the lights come on Friday night,” said Chambless. “Shannon is gonna be as fired up as we are and they also have good athletes. But we have to play four quarters of hard-nosed football and see what happens.”
Itawamba and first-year head coach Ashley Kuhn saw his inexperience squad struggle. Senior quarterback and Ole Miss commit Maikhail Miller completed just 1 of 13 with an interception and was sacked three times.
“We lost 25 seniors and we’re trying to replace a lot of them,” said Kuhn. “And playing that type of team today, it makes it tough. They are one of the Top 5 teams in the state.
“We threw a lot of young kids in the fire today. But it’s gonna help us in the long run.”
The Indians also experienced a scary situation in the second quarter. During a West Point extra-point attempt, Indians’ Tyler Atkin fell wrong on his neck. He was carted off on a stretcher following a 20-minute delay in the game.
Kuhn said Atkins had movement in his limbs but had no definite report of his condition after the jamboree.
Starkvllle 21, Callaway 0
First-year Starkville head coach Jamie Mitchell got his first look at his squad in game-like conditions and came away with some positive feelings.
Senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson rushed for three touchdowns as the Jackets rolled up a 21-0 score against Callaway in two quarters of action.
“I will be anxious to see the film but I thought we played with good effort,” said Mitchell. “We did some good things, offensively, and I thought we got to the ball fairly well, defensively.
“We got a long way to go. But we’ve improved a ton since spring. Our guys are starting to understand now what we’re trying to do.”
Starkville opens the season Friday night at home against Noxubee County.

Paul Jones Special to the NEMS Daily Journal