West Point Green Wave face third straight rival in Starkville Yellowjackets

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

When you play three rivals in three consecutive weeks, you have to adopt a business-like approach, says Chris Chambless.
“Just about everybody we play in our non-division games is a rival for us,” said the West Point High head coach. “It’s a regional-type deal. They’re huge rivalry games for us that we play back-to-back-to-back, and it takes a toll.
“So, we’ll have to take a business-type attitude when we get after each other.”
Tonight’s home game against second-ranked Starkville will be the second of three straight contests against area rivals. Columbus defeated the third-ranked Green Wave, 35-27, in overtime last Friday.
Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell says the Green Wave is his team’s biggest rival – more so than 6A teams Tupelo and Columbus.
“Absolutely,” said the second-year Yellowjackets coach. “That’s the one everyone of our kids circled on their calendars.
“It’s probably been as intense a high school football rivalry as there is in the state. Both teams like to get after one another, and last year we snuck one out against them.
“They (West Point) had a year to think about it, so they will come out with all guns blazing.”
Before taking on area power Noxubee County next week, the Green Wave will try to avenge last year’s 21-20 loss to the Yellowjackets (2-1), whose lone loss, thus far in 2011, came at the hands of Noxubee County, 33-21, on the road in Week 1.
The Wave’s 2010 loss to the Yellowjackets occurred after a bye week – something that may have proved costly yet again for the Wave, as it was recently defeated by Columbus following an open week.
Win or lose, Starkville and West Point could see each other come playoff time. Even though this is a non-division game and there is a distinct possibility both squads could meet in the Class 5A playoffs, it’s – to borrow from Chambless – “business as usual.”
“This year, it’s business as usual, trying to get better,” the West Point coach stressed. “We’re concerned about regular-season games. We don’t think ahead. We think week to week.”
Said Mitchell, “We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing, hopefully getting better with what we’re doing. You can’t go into any game and hide anything. Both of us would love and hope to meet later in the playoffs, because that’ll mean that we’ll both have had a really good year.
“We’ll go at it (tonight’s game) with everything we can.”
Unfortunately for the Yellowjackets, their defense – which held fourth-ranked Tupelo to just seven points and Madison Central, Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s 15th-ranked team in the state, to 14 – will be without two of their inside linebackers.
“We lost our best defensive player to a torn ACL,” Mitchell said. “David Fair is done for the year.
“We lost our other inside linebacker, J.B. Barriare, to a broken ankle. He’s gone for the season.”
Those are significant losses for the Yellowjackets, especially when they’ll play a tough, hard-nosed West Point team that likes to pound the rock. Not to mention, a team that gave 6A juggernaut South Panola everything it could handle in Week 1 and is hungry for its first win of 2011.
“West Point blocks down and kicks out,” Mitchell said. “They come right at you and they don’t care if you know what’s coming. They’re certainly a very, very difficult matchup.
“You’ll have to make sure your equipment is on tight, buckled up and ready to go.”
john.wilbert@journalinc.com