WEST POINT — The West Point High School football team knew Oxford High’s high-octane offense would come out swinging Friday night.
The Chargers did what they were expected to do, but the Green Wave weathered the early storm and then exploded for 28 points in the second quarter to earn a 35-21 victory at McCallister Field.
The victory helped West Point (8-2, 6-0 region) clinch the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 1 championship.
“We had that speech with them all week about being able to weather the storm and never quit,” West Point coach Chris Chambless said. “We knew they were going to come out here pumped up and we had to fight through it, and that’s what we did. We got a great football team and we lost it a little there, but that was the most physical game we’ve played. I think it will help us playing a physical game like this going into the playoffs. ”
West Point will play host to a first-round playoff game Nov. 9. Oxford (9-1, 5-1) also will play host to a first-round game despite seeing its winning streak end.
West Point’s offense made sure Oxford’s streak ended, piling up 356 rushing yards and manhandling Oxford’s front seven. Senior quarterback Tez Lane (19 carries, 214 yards) led the attack, while junior tailback/resident workhorse Aeris Williams added 131 yards on 35 carries.
“We did real good,” Lane said. “We came out first and second quarter doing the West Point hard nose style of running. We came out in the second half coasting and we got to get that right. We got to keep going hard.”
With 3 minutes, 40 seconds to go in the first quarter, Oxford took a 14-7 on Parker Adamson’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Nick Brown. On the ensuing kickoff, the Chargers attempted an onside kick, which failed, giving West Point its best field position at their 48-yard line. The Green Wave capitalized, going on a six-play, 52-yard drive that ate up a little more than four minutes and culminated with a 24-yard run by Lane. That touchdown tied the game at 14 and provided the momentum shift the Green Wave needed.
West Point scored on its next three possessions in rapid succession — first on a 1-yard dive from sophomore Lacequieu Starks, then on runs of 10 and 85 yards by Lane. On the 85-yarder, Lane bootlegged around right end, evaded one tackler, and cut to the middle of the field and wasn’t touched again, winning the footrace to the end zone.
“We just are playing hard and playing together as a team,” said Williams, who was dependable down the stretch and gained some of the Green Wave’s toughest offensive yards. “We get ourselves hyped up and believe in each other. It wasn’t our best game, with the intensity going down and up. We need to play with a higher intensity. If not we just will get beat. We need to keep it high and stay together.”
West Point’s 356 rushing yards was perhaps the most encouraging stat of the game. On the first four drives, West Point tried to run outside the tackles, an approach that proved unsuccessful, with those drives accumulating -4 yards. After Oxford’s failed onside kick, they shifted the attack inside the tackles, which proved to be a difference-maker. It was enough to keep the defense guessing, and that was all the opening Lane and company needed.
“Big win right here,” Lane said. “It got us on a high right now. They were voted to beat us, and we overcame the storm. We knew it was gonna be hard, but we came out here and practiced hard. We went hard.”
Said Chambless, “Our defense held them to 21 points. We gave up one too many big plays, and one of our goals was not to give up any. But our defense played well tonight. We have some little tweaks to fix, but we played a great offense that changes plays at the line. We had to move around a lot, running up and down the field, which made for a longer game than usual. We had to run, and you have to be in good shape to do that. I thought we held up pretty good.”
Oxford feasted on big plays. After the Green Wave scored on the first play from scrimmage on a 71-yard strike from Lane to Terence Minor, Oxford answered with touchdown passes of 86 and 20 yards. The Chargers’ only other touchdown came late in the final quarter, a 19-yarder that was Adamson’s third of the evening. Outside of those three plays, the West Point secondary kept the talented senior in check all game. The defense also twice held the Chargers on fourth-and-goal inside the 10. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Green Wave got the result they hoped for — a big victory and a region championship.
West Point will close the regular season Friday night with a region game at New Hope.