The memories are still fresh for the seniors at West Point High School.
Four years ago, those seniors – then eighth graders – sat in a cluster in Jackson’s Memorial Stadium and watched as the Green Wave football team won the 2005 Class 4A state championship.
For seniors like Michael Carr, the image of West Point marching off the field with its fifth championship trophy left an indelible mark – and a goal to shoot for.
“It’s all about winning the state championship in West Point,” said Carr, a Mississippi State commitment and standout wide receiver for the Green Wave. “I knew right then that I wanted to be a part of that. … that I wanted to bring home a championship just like they did.”
Now, Carr nearly has his chance.
With a road win tonight in a Class 5A state semifnal game over New Hope, the Green Wave can punch its ticket to Jackson for the third time this decade, and eighth overall.
For West Point coach Chris Chambless, who took over the West Point program a season after the ‘05 title, talk of a return to Jackson will have to wait, as his attention is squarely on New Hope.
“Everybody says that it’s hard to beat a good team twice, and it’s the truth,” said Chambless, whose team earned a 35-8 win over the Trojans on Oct. 17. “We were able to get a win in the regular season, but that doesn’t mean anything now. It’s an entirely different ballgame in the playoffs, and so far, our kids look like they understand that. They know that we’ll have to bring our best to beat New Hope again.”
The loss to West Point seemed to trigger something in the Trojans (11-1), who have won six straight since then, including a pair of gutty playoff wins over Hernando (34-33) and Ridgeland (28-21).
Likewise, West Point (12-1) has been on quite a roll since a season-opening loss at Shannon, averaging 32 points per game during its current 11-game winning streak.
With his team’s return trip to New Hope looming, Chambless is wary of a New Hope offense that has improved since a late-season lull.
“They get the job done, plain and simple,” Chambless said of New Hope, which relies on senior QB Zak Thrasher and tailback Terrance Dentry, who has amassed 1,218 yards and 11 scores on the season. “They do what they do extremely well, and they’ve developed a knack for making the big play at the right time.”
That knack will be tested often against a West Point defense that has allowed just seven points through two playoff games. Mississippi State commitment Curtis Virges, who leads the team with 65 tackles and 13 sacks, anchors a Green Wave defense that has allowed a touchdown or less in each of the last six games.
With a berth in the state title game at stake, West Point has historically thrived, going 7-2 in north half championships while New Hope has been in this situation just once, a 42-14 loss to eventual 4A champ Noxubee County last season.
As far as Chambless is concerned, West Point’s history is of little consequence once the game gets started.
“We’ve been here before, but New Hope is a very good team,” Chambless said. “If we don’t come to play, what we’ve done in the past won’t matter. I think our kids understand that.”
The kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal