WEST POINT – Since a season-opening loss to Shannon, West Point had two long weeks to think about that setback.
Focusing on being physical and well-conditioned, the host Green Wave (1-1) put their practice efforts to the test Friday night, and came away with a 24-6 victory over Columbus (1-2).
“We just had great practices,” said West Point head coach Chris Chambless. “Our guys never complained the past two weeks. We worked a lot on conditioning and our mental focus. And we played very physical tonight and really limited our penalties. Everybody was humble and we were glad to get this win behind us.”
West Point took a 12-0 lead into the halftime break thanks to the play of quarterback Justin Cox. The Green Wave junior gave his team a 6-0 lead with a 5-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter, then added a 35-yard scoring toss to junior tight end Michael Bush midway through the second quarter.
However, Columbus came out of the second half determined to make it a game. The Class 6A Falcons took the second-half kickoff and drove 69 yards to cut the lead to 12-6. Columbus sophomore quarterback Cedric Jackson threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to fellow classmate Randy Jones on fourth-and-goal with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Falcons’ momentum was short-lived; just 17 seconds to be exact.
That’s how long it took West Point senior standout Michael Carr to return the ensuing kickoff 92 yards to give the Green Wave an 18-6 advantage.
“You gotta make plays to take air out of teams,” Chambless said. “And that’s what Michael did. But I tell you what, Columbus has a great group of young guys. I hate to see them next year.”
And Carr noted he received a little help from above before he made the most crucial play of the night.
“My eyes got real big and all I was thinking was ‘touchdown, touchdown,’” said Carr. “The Lord just made me feel real, real confident (on the touchdown return). Once I made the move, it was just a race to the end zone. I have never been so confident in running back a kick in my life. I hit the hole hard and that’s what I did.
“I feel my position is wherever I can help the team – on offense and special teams. That first loss humbled us but I think it is going to make this team better. It made us push ourselves these past two weeks.”
From there, the West Point running game and defense took over. West Point senior tailback Xavier Hogan capped off the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. West Point rushed for 193 yards on the night with Hogan getting 73 yards of that total on just 12 carries.
Meawhile, the defense limited Columbus to just 112 yards of total offense.
“Coach told us to give (Columbus) just 45 plays of offense,” said West Point senior defensive tackle Curtis Virges, who had 12 tackles, including three tackles for a loss. “And that’s what we gave him.
“Once they cut the lead to six points, then we knew it had to be three-and-outs for the rest of the game.”