WEST POINT — Going into the fourth quarter Friday night, the New Hope and West Point high school football teams were involved in a slugfest, a tightly contested, low-scoring and hard-hitting contest with the Green Wave nursing a 10-0 lead.
Then, two big plays changed everything.
Senior defensive back Fred McMillian picked off New Hope quarterback Ty Crowell to give West Point the ball with 10:04 left in the game. Then, a bizarre fumble-turned-strip-turned fumble saw junior offensive lineman Andrew Fulgham rumble 21 yards to set up first-and-goal, which Cameron Young turned into a 17-0 lead with an 8-yard run.
More big plays on offense and a defense that didn’t allow a first down the rest of the way combined for a 31-0 victory for the Green Wave.
“We played really, really hard for three full quarters,” Trojans coach Seth Stillman said. “I felt like we gave up a little in the end. We got real tired, and that’s what West Point does to you.”
For West Point coach Chris Chambless, energy level was everything.
“We played with more energy in the second half, and we can’t do that,” he said. “We’ve got to come out in both halves with energy.”
There was plenty of energy on defense during the first half, as two attempted field goals were the only offense. One of them was successful: a 28-yarder by senior Alex Harper after time expired. Green Wave quarterback Kahnen Daniels had thrown into the end zone as time expired, but a pass interference penalty gave them an untimed down from the New Hope 11.
And that was it for the opening 24 minutes, the 3-0 score frustrating for a West Point squad used to playing for and winning state championships and encouraging for a New Hope team trying to lay the foundation of a winning program.
The first hint that things would be different after halftime came on the Green Wave’s second possession of the third quarter. Cameron Young began the drive with a 20-yard run, then put them in scoring position with an 11-yard run to the Trojans 12.
One play later, Jaquantis Harris scored from 12 yards out for a 10-0 West Point lead. But there still was no hint of the Green Wave pulling away.
Then came the McMillian interception — by coincidence, the critical turnover came almost immediately after the Trojans forced a three-and-out for the first time — and Fulgham run that helped pushed the lead to 17 and turned the momentum a deep shade of green.
A big punt return from junior Amari Cox put the Green Wave at the New Hope 15, A Keshawn Henley touchdown run was called back by a holding penalty, and a holding penalty on the next play set up first-and-21 from the New Hope 26. That’s when Daniels found Jamarquez Shun Melton for the only passing touchdown of the game.
Trailing 24-0, New Hope again could not muster a first down, but West Point, always content to keep it on the ground, didn’t exactly run out the clock. Henley didn’t give them that chance, sweeping left, bouncing off of defenders and then sprinting 55 yards to the New Hope 3. It seemed only fair for him to get it in the end zone, and two plays later he did to cap the scoring.
“They grind you down until you think they’re done,” Stillman said. “You try to bump somebody out of bounds, thinking they’ll go down easy because it’s the fourth quarter and they’re up by 40, but they don’t. They’re going to keep running hard, and that’s what they did tonight when we gave up a couple of late scores.”
New Hope’s longest play from scrimmage was a 10-yard keeper by Crowell; West Point had a dozen plays of 10 or more yards, four of them during the fourth quarter. Chambless praised his offense for pounding away until there was an opening for the big play.
“Our running backs did a heck of a job running the ball,” he said. “Cam got some hard yards tonight. He was getting hit, but that’s going to be every defendse’s plan. They all ran hard, but we’ve got to do a little better on ball security.”
Young and Henley each went over 100 yards for the game after being held to less than 50 during the first half, while the West Point defense did the opposite to New Hope. Including sacks, the Trojans were held to 4 yards rushing after halftime and completed just a single pass.
Chambless has a point about ball security
“We were able to bounce back and get going in the second half,” Chambless said. “I feel we have a pretty good football team. We’ve got a bunch of guys who love each other, play hard for each other, a lot of unselfish guys.”
They also have a lot of guys used to winning. The Green Wave are 42-6 on the field since this year’s seniors were freshmen, and that means something.
“That’s what our focus is,” Stillman said. “We have to learn how to win. We just don’t know how yet. It’s been a long time since we’ve won consistently, especially against really good football teams like West Point. We’re going to get it fixed, we’ll eventually learn how to win, and I think we’re going to have something really special when we do.”
Next up for West Point is a trip to Cleveland Central, while New Hope will host a Greenville team coming off of a 28-6 loss to Columbus.
West Point 31, New Hope 0
New Hope (2-2) 0 0 0 0 — 0
West Point (3-2) 0 3 7 21 — 31
WP — Alex Harper 28 FG, :00
WP — Jaquantis Harris 12 run (Harper kick), 5:16
WP — Cameron Young 8 run (Harper kick), 8:40
WP — Jamarquez Shun Melton 26 pass from Kahnen Daniels (Harper kick), 6:00
WP — Keshawn Henley 3 run (JD Turney kick), 1:43