Chris Chambless believes.
The West Point High School football coach believed in his team after a season-opening loss to South Panola.
That confidence didn”t waver after an overtime loss at Columbus the following week.
And while others in the community and around the state asked, “What is wrong with the Green Wave?” Chambless and the Green Wave got back to work, buoyed by the fact that a champion never has been crowned in September.
A 33-12 victory last week against Starkville wasn”t a panacea, but Chambless welcomed it as a first step to restoring order and getting the Green Wave back on the Jackson trail.
The next step will come at 7:30 tonight when the two-time defending Class 5A state champions will take on rival Noxubee County.
West Point has won the past two meetings, and six of the past seven, including three shutouts. But Chambless believes his 2011 team can create the same kind of history. Whether it happens tonight remains to be seen, but he knows things are coming together.
“We”re getting the feeling that we”re getting back on track, but then there also is the pressure of keeping it on track,” Chambless said. “It is very easy to fall off the top, People don”t understand it, either.”
Chambless said the 2011 Green Wave have the championship mentality and work ethic of previous teams. The difference, he said, is in the execution, and he said this team, which has a lot of young and/or inexperienced players in key positions, is still understanding what needs to be done to play with the bull”s eye on their backs.
The fact that West Point played two-time defending Class 6A state champion and was closer than the final 37-17 score and then lost to a senior-laden Columbus team in overtime on the road also should be noted.
But Chambless won”t make excuses, and he doesn”t want his players to, either. His plan is to stick to the message and continue to play West Point football because that plan has worked, and he believes it will work this year, too.
“We let them know up front (after beating Starkville) that we are nowhere near where we need to be,” Chambless said. “The players bought into that and that helped tremendously in that they didn”t lose focus, that they didn”t let the losses affect our day-to-day operation or our plan of what we”re trying to do.”
Chambless praised his seniors and experienced players for staying positive and not criticizing or giving up on the younger players. He said all of the players are improving on the mental aspect of the game and learning how to recognize things, which makes it easier for them to react and let their skills take over. Now, he said, the trick is to develop consistency and do it every day in practice and maintain that focus on Friday night.
“It doesn”t matter how much you practice in the offseason it is what you do when you get in battle in the heat of the moment,” Chambless said. “I knew once we got game experience that is where the lessons would be learned. We still have a lot more lessons to learn, and by no means are we going to peak too soon.”
That”s the kind of attitude Chambless hopes his team will play with against Noxubee County. He said the Tigers still will be dangerous even if they are without quarterback Deangelo Ballard and running back Ladarrell Hunt. Both players didn”t play last week in a 16-6 victory against Aberdeen. Their absence would limit the Tigers, but Chambless knows the Tigers still have plenty of talented players and that they will be motivated to beat the Green Wave.
“They are explosive on offense and fast and physical on defense,” Chambless said. “We know it is going to be a challenge for us, and we”re going to have to be ready to go at 7:30 (tonight).”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.