By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
West Point High head football coach Chris Chambless said he hates bye weeks.
Entering this past Friday’s game against Starkville, his team was ranked 82nd in the country by Rivals.com and had two weeks to prepare for the Yellowjackets.
After leading 20-0 at halftime of Friday’s game, the Green Wave saw its 16-game win streak end as the Yellowjackets came back to upset the Daily Journal’s top-ranked large school on its own field, 21-20.
“I just don’t like off weeks,” Chambless said two days before playing Starkville. “Everybody says, ‘Yeah, it’s a good week to try to correct mistakes and everything.’ And it is. But at the same time, when you get in game mode, you gotta play games to get in game shape.
“So, we skipped a week of playing a game, and even though we’ve still been running and everything, a four-quarter football game is a little bit different than a practice or anything else.”
Fortunately, for the now 2-1 Wave, it doesn’t have any more bye weeks scheduled for the rest of the season, nor any remaining games against Class 6A teams such as Starkville.
So, look for the talented and motivated Wave – who blew out Class 4A perennial power Shannon, 39-14, in Week 1 – to be in contention to successfully defend its MHSAA Class 5A state championship.
West Point’s biggest critics are the players and coaches themselves. After posting a 14-0 shutout on the road against Mainland High, a Class 6A Florida team ranked in the state’s top 10 by the Associated Press, Chambless and Co. were “all so critical” of their performance.
“We played extremely hard, but we were all so critical – when we watched film – of the mistakes we made,” Chambless said.
The West Point head coach did say that his team tries to “get something positive out of everything we do,” but his idea of a positive from that game in Florida isn’t what most people would have in mind.
“One of the positives that came out of that past game – besides that we won and played extremely hard – was the fact that we still made the mistakes and we saw how much better we could be by eliminating those mistakes. So, our guys are working hard to eliminate those mistakes.”
While they may have been ranked nationally at the beginning of this month, the West Point players and coaches didn’t seem to notice.
“I didn’t even know it until someone brought it up to my attention – one of my friends out in the community,” Chambless said of being ranked in the top 100 nationally. “Our guys, we don’t look at that (rankings). I know all coaches are going to say that, but we really don’t.
“Our goal is to try to get better every game, every practice.”
So Coach, you never heard your players speak once about being ranked in the top 100?
“No, sure haven’t,” Chambless said. “Honestly, I really hadn’t. We’re pretty humble, and that just goes back to their work ethic.
“We’re a bunch of blue-collar country boys, trying to work hard and make good things happen for us and the community.”
Best place to be
Chambless is originally from Hamilton, Ala., and he couldn’t be in a better spot to coach high school football. Even his assistant coaches – whom Chambless hired based on work ethic and good chemistry with players – stay on his staff; Chambless has had no one leave his staff in three years.
“We got great community support here,” said the West Point head coach. “It’s just unbelievable with the fans.
“And we got a great support staff. I couldn’t name them all; I would probably leave somebody out. Just the support staff, community, fans, administration – super.
“Probably the best place in the state of Mississippi as a coach. It’s a lot of fun.”
The Green Wave have won six state titles in football, but Chambless won’t dare say his program will become similar to Class 6A and national power South Panola, which has won eight state championships.
“We try to be in our own little zone here – just try to get as good as West Point can get,” he said. “We set goals, but we set goals within our limits of 5A football.”
The West Point coach acknowledged that his players expressed interest in playing South Panola after his team had won the 2009 5A state title.
“Yeah, there’s talk,” Chambless said. “I remember coming in last year, the Monday after winning the state championship game, and the first thing our kids said was, ‘Call South Panola and set up a game.’
“We played them in the spring, but we have our league and they have their league. If our paths ever cross, we’ll play. But if they don’t, then so be it. We’re going to try to take care of our business here.”
South Panola defeated West Point in the spring game, but Chambless said his team didn’t back down.
“I feel like when we play hard, we might be able to compete with anybody,” he added. “I don’t know (for sure).
“But right now, we’re focused from game to game and trying to compete at the level we gotta compete at in order to win.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or email@example.com