October 14, 2018 12:42:50 AM
BY WILL NATIONS
Special to the Dispatch
OLIVE BRANCH - The West Point High football team faced a massive character test on Friday night.
Trailing by as much as 13 points in the second half, it was the Green Wave that made sure it walked away unscathed against the Olive Branch Conquistadors at Poole Field.
Never holding a lead until the end, West Point athlete Dantariyus Cannon capped a two-possession comeback effort with a 12-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining in the game, claiming a 34-33 win. The decision extended the Green Wave's MHSAA Region 1-5A winning streak to 24 games.
"I told the guys all week it was going to be dog fight," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "I may be the only one on staff that came up here in 2004, and it was the exact same way. We were expected to play the next play, and we could never quit on this one."
The Green Wave started its would-be, winning drive after its defense forced the game's only punt, which landed at the West Point 16-yard line. Cannon ignited the 12-play series with his 12-yard carry on second down. Then, Brandon Harris continued to pound the football with an 18-yard carry for a first down around midfield. Jake Chambless completed a 12-yard strike to Cannon two plays later, marching the Green Wave to the Olive Branch 39-yard line with less than two minutes left.
Jaylun Eggerson rumbled on three consecutive fullback dives to get West Point inside the red zone, which put the game clock under a minute.
Finally, on the twelfth play of the drive, Cannon took a sweep to the right, broke through initial contact, nearly stumbled inside the 10-yard line from a diving defender and regained his balance to score the decisive touchdown.
"It feels great because we kept pushing the issue," Cannon said about his late-game heroics. "On the play, I knew I had to get it on that play. I had to do for the team.
"We just have to keep going hard and doing our thing," Cannon added.
Though emotions were in celebration mode, West Point's defense was asked to stand tall as Olive Branch had one more opportunity. Starting from their 10-yard line, the Conquistadors were gifted two Green Wave personal foul penalties of 30 yards, which extend the drive to the Olive Branch 40-yard line. Cole Catledge found Tahj Milson at the West Point 45-yard line with 7 seconds remaining.
With 2 seconds remaining, Cole Catledge rolled to his left and right, seeking a last-second heave to the end zone. But Jaylen Cungious' pursuing pressure was too much, forcing an awkward throw that fell harmlessly 30 yards down the field between West Point defenders.
"We worked on breaking through blocks, and I was confident in my speed to get after the quarterback if I got loose," Cungious said about the game's final play.
"We stayed together and made sure we were going to end up on top," Cungious add.
West Point started its rally facing a 33-21 deficit with eight minutes, 44 seconds left in the game. On the Green Wave's ensuing possession, Jake Chambless completed a 50-yard strike to Cannon, setting up Brandon Harris three plays later. Harris skipped outside and bruised his way to the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run - his third score. Jose Lemus added an important extra point.
The comeback was also bolstered by two key plays. On the Olive Branch's fourth, extra-point attempt, Ryan Melton delivered a block, holding the Conquistadors' lead to 27-14 in the third. It was another conversion attempt that was batted down by Kentavious McMillian in the fourth.
"I met with the seniors at halftime, and I told them there was going to be adversity tonight," Chambless said. "We had great leadership tonight, and it showed on those two plays specifically. The kids didn't quit."
At times it seemed that the Conquistadors' offense was just too much to stop.
Olive Branch scored on its first three possessions, including two Catledge touchdown passes, and built a 21-14 advantage by halftime. The offensive success continued in the second half as Olive Branch, which scored two more times on its first two turns, built a two-possession advantage twice, stretching its advantage to 12 points in the fourth.
West Point's defense finally got its stop on the Conquistadors' last two possessions - a three-and-out and a harmless incompletion.
"Defense had to swell up and get a stop late in the game," Chambless said. "It just about mentally bowing up."
The win was an important one as Olive Branch (7-1, 3-1 Region 1-5A) entered the contest undefeated. The Green Wave improved to 7-1 and 4-0 MHSAA Region 1-5A - only undefeated team now. West Point continues region play at Grenada Frida
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