West Point High School defensive coordinator Matt Snow has been stressing turnovers this season.
“We do the turnover drills every day in practice,” West Point senior defensive back Ryan Melton said. “We spend a lot of time on them. That’s part of the reason why we are one of the best defenses in the state. It may be the biggest reason.”
West Point (2-1) will look to exert its will on defense again Friday night when it plays host to Noxubee County (2-2) in its final non-region game of the season.
After an open date, West Point will return to the field for the first time since a 23-7 loss to No. 1 Starkville. That loss snapped a 30-game winning streak that dated back to the 2016 season.
“Looking forward to seeing how we respond,” West Point coach Chris Chambless said. “The kids are ready to go. We got some good work in during the off week. Everybody is ready to get started on a new streak.”
West Point has rolled to back-to-back Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A, Region 1 championships with a 14-0 mark in region play in each of the last two state championship seasons.
Region play will start next week at home against Lafayette. Olive Branch and Lafayette are considered the biggest threats to West Point’s next region title.
“This team has some really high goals,” Melton said. “For the seniors, we want to go out with another championship. You learn from the Starkville game and allow that to help you throughout the rest of the season. We couldn’t get the big stop there in the second half. That is where the game got away from us.”
West Point held a 7-6 halftime lead at Starkville. Rodrigues Clark rushed for three touchdowns and led a dominating ground game in the second half.
West Point will look to flex its muscle against one of the Class 4A favorites for this season. Noxubee County is coming off a 26-23 loss to Meridian. The Tigers continue to battle injuries, including one to senior Kyziah Pruitt that likely will keep the Mississippi State commitment out one more week.
Turnovers have swung the last two meetings. West Point won 47-6 at home in 2016 and 47-14 last season in Macon.
This season, West Point has six interceptions. The Green Wave have yet to recover a fumble. West Point has seven sacks.
“The goal is to play West Point defense this season,” West Point senior lineman Jaylen Cungious said. “We are trying to bring the young guys along and help them out. For the seniors, we have some big expectations for the defensive unit. Even though we scored a lot of points last year, it’s up to us to hold up our end of the deal. We take pride in shutouts and limiting the other team, forcing turnovers.”
Tyler Rupert leads the Green Wave with two interceptions. Tyron Orr, Kentavious McMillian, Latarius Embry, and Leonda Thompson also have interceptions.
“These guys (on defense) play well together,” Chambless said. “The biggest thing is speed. We have guy who are fast, physical and have a nose for the ball. It’s still early in the year. This unit has some of its best football ahead, too.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.