MACON — The West Point High School football team is having fun on defense again.
“We are playing West Point defense again,” West Point senior linebacker Nick Melton said. “When your classmates smile, when your teachers smile, when your principal and superintendent smile, that makes it fun. The whole community loves this football team. When you can share this success with them, it’s special. We are playing the type of defense we are supposed to. We are having the type of fun we are supposed to.”
For the past two weeks, the results have shown on the scoreboard.
West Point shut down another of the area’s elite teams Friday night, rolling past reigning Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A state champion Noxubee County 21-6.
West Point (3-1) won its third-straight game in the series. Noxubee County (2-3) has lost three-straight games for the first time since 2006.
After beating Louisville in its season opener, West Point lost to Starkville 16-0. The Green Wave played well defensively and held Starkville receiver A.J. Brown to four catches.
Even in a losing effort, the Green Wave defense began to take flight. West Point has allowed one touchdown combined in a 13-3 victory against Columbus and against Noxubee County.
“We couldn’t let one loss define our season,” West Point senior defensive back Jeffrey Drake said. “We knew we had so much more to play for. We took the positives from the loss and came back out to practice ready to work harder.”
During spring practice, West Point coach Chris Chambless looked for more ways to get speed on offense. Reversing its normal trend, West Point put more players into action going two ways. The hard work on the offense paid off for Drake on Friday night.
Noxubee County grabbed a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter when quarterback Timorrius Conner hit Kymbotric Mason for a 28-yard touchdown pass to cap a 53-yard, three-play drive.
On the next play, West Point reserve quarterback Dmarrio Edwards hit Drake for a 77-yard touchdown pass and an eventual 7-6 lead at halftime.
“We lost a lot of seniors off last year’s team,” Drake said. “For me, it is all about leadership since I am senior. Whether it’s on offense or defense, it’s time to step up and make plays to help us win. The score was big because they had been attacking us pretty well in the first half, even though neither team scored for a long time.”
Edwards is the passing threat at quarterback, while starter Marcus Murphy is more of a running threat. Edwards also lines up as receiver and is involved in his share of plays as a defensive back. He intercepted a pass late in the first half Friday night. He is another two-way player gifted with speed and the ability to change the game on a dime.
“The defense did its job tonight, they played well,” Edwards said. “The coaches did a great job of calling plays tonight. On the touchdown, we called right-side stack. (The coaches) felt like we could get that open. (Drake) has such great speed. He just needs a little bit of an opening.
“I threw the ball as deep as I could and hit him in stride. That is what we have been working on in practice — the deep ball. We executed and did everything just right on that play.”
From there, the West Point defense had things on lockdown.
Noxubee County outgained West Point, 273-257. However, legitimate scoring threats for the Tigers were few and far between.
One such threat took place late in the third quarter. Noxubee County drove from its 48-yard line to the West Point 8. On third down, West Point’s Randall Johnson had a pass breakup in the end zone. On fourth down, Tajh Johnson sacked Conner to force the ball to go over on downs.
West Point put the game away thanks in large part to another great play by a defensive star. Leading 7-6, West Point punted from its 22. Noxubee County muffed the punt and Melton recovered on the Noxubee County 45. Murphy had runs of 18 and 20 yards before he capped his team’s second scoring drive with a 2-yard run.
Another turnover on downs in Noxubee County territory set West Point up for the final score. Chris Calvert hurdled in from 20 yards out with 55 seconds remaining.
Chambless said he feels like his team is headed back in the way of the traditional hard-nosed defensive units of the past state champions at the school. The play of Terrence Cherry, William Ivy, Keonta Hampton, Drake, and Melton backed that claim up.
Chambless also likes the added wrinkle of having more two-way players and more diversity on the offense. The team will have to take it up another notch still next week for the Class 5A, Region 1 opener at reigning North State champion Oxford.
“We are really blessed with some great coaches,” Chambless said. “It is my job to keep them working together and making sure the sharing of players works. We could have a 22-player offensive practice and a 22-player defensive practice. But you want your best players on the field for as many plays as possible.
“With (Drake), you are not only getting a talented player more involved, you are getting his leadership. You want your best leaders on the field for as many snaps as possible.”
For West Point, the road ahead will be a challenging one at best. However, the defense is setting the tone while a young offensive unit continues to grow up. The past two seasons haven’t measured up to West Point standards. However, it appears the fun may be coming back to Clay County.
“You have to have fun playing for us,” Chambless said. “Football is big in our community. In our community, it’s school, church, and football. It’s God, family, academics, and athletics. These kids believe in that. They trust people are going to come out and support us. We play hard for our community and school. It is good to see the hard work these kids have invested pay off.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.