WEST POINT — The West Point High School football team has attacked practice with a different attitude the last four weeks.
The change came following a 22-point loss at Oxford on Sept. 28. West Point coach Chris Chambless said he felt good about his team’s preparation prior to the game, but he said his team was shell-shocked in the loss to the Class 5A, Region 1 rival. After the loss, he wanted his team to avoid the “midseason blues,” so practices were intensified. That work paid off Friday night with a 50-0 victory against Saltillo at Hamblin Stadium in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 1 game.
The victory extended West Point’s winning streak to four.
“We realized we can’t take any day for granted. We can’t take any practice for granted,” said Chambless, whose team improved to 7-2 and 4-1 in the region. “We can’t step backwards without having good practices. We’ve been having up-tempo practices and we’ve been practicing real well. You improve when you go game speed.”
Prior to kickoff, Chambless was presented with a plaque for earning his 100th victory against Lake Cormorant last week. The school’s 2005 state championship team also was honored at halftime.
Chambless didn’t change how practices were done, but there has been a sense of urgency since the loss to Oxford. Chambless believes teams don’t get in game shape until they have played a game. He believes the foundation for game shape starts in practice.
The new attitude toward practice started with the week of the Clarksdale game on Oct. 2. Chambless and his coaching staff motivated their players and brought them back into focus. West Point responded with a 53-16 victory against Clarksdale. It beat Center Hill 54-13 two weeks ago and Lake Cormorant 47-21 last week.
Senior offensive lineman Scott Lashley said the tempo has been higher and there is a different aggressiveness to the team’s practices. As a result, he said the Green Wave aren’t taking another team for granted. They know they have to bring their ‘A’ game to get victories.
“You’ve got to love it,” Lashley said. “We get better and better with each practice, with each game.”
Ashley received his 25th scholarship offer Monday when Oregon extended an offer to him.
Chambless has liked the effort he has seen from his team in practice the last four weeks.
The Green Wave practice all out Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and have a light walk-through Thursday. Pads are worn every day.
West Point didn’t have school Monday, but the football players were on the practice fields a little before 8 a.m. They didn’t wear pads, something that has never happened under Chambless for a midseason practice.
But he felt like his team deserved a little rest, and plus, the schedule was different than a normal practice with no school. Even with the attitude of not taking anyone for granted, the Green Wave had to motivate themselves.
West Point has practiced hard since training camp began in early August, but the days wore on the young players. Lately, sophomore running back Chris Calvert has seen a big difference in the intensity everybody is bringing to practice.
“We started slow during the season, but as we practiced, we learned more and we started to progress,” Calvert said. “It paid off on the field.”
Calvert, who was named The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week last week, rushed for 212 yards and four touchdowns. All of his touchdowns (38, 28, 20, and 78 yards) came in the first half, as West Point built a 36-0 lead at halftime.
Tony Rush tackled Saltillo’s Dontell Young in the end zone for a safety to give the Green Wave an 8-0 victory late in the first quarter. Junior quarterback Dmarrio Edwards scored a 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Tavores Chandler returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, while Jamario Bell finished the scoring with a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jason Brownlee also had an interception to give West Point two forced turnovers.
The Green Wave rushed for 412 yards and threw for 39. The Tigers (0-10, 0-5) had 153 yards.
The last four weeks have given the Green Wave confidence moving forward. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff picture is beginning to take shape in Class 5A, but there is still a lot to be decided in Region 1. West Point is in, but it still has its sights looking on a region title. West Point needs to win out and have Oxford, which is undefeated in district play, lose its final two games.
Either way, Chambless feels good about his team and said it has all the confidence in the world.
“We don’t want to peak until the end,” Chambless said.
Many of West Point’s contributors are underclassmen, but the Green Wave have a handful of upperclassmen that are leaders in the locker room. Lashley is one of them. He likes his team’s chances in the playoffs, and said West Point has been driven by the loss to Oxford. If the teams meet again, he can’t wait to show the state of Mississippi how his team has improved thanks to their hard work the last four weeks in practice.
“I feel like we’ve just come together as a unit,” Lashley said. “We’re becoming more as one. Nobody’s selfish. We’re out here playing as a team, playing as one.”
West Point will play New Hope at Friday and play host to Lewisburg on Nov. 6 in the regular-season finale.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.