Truth be told, West Point High School’s football coaching staff and players felt like they left a win on the field in 2010 against arch-rival Starkville, when a litany of miscues, mistakes and turnovers led to a 21-20 Starkville win in West Point.
There would be no mistakes this time.
Avenging its lone defeat of 2010, West Point used a dominating second half effort from its defense and a balanced attack on offense to earn a convincing 33-12 win over visiting Starkville Friday night.
“We won this game in practice this week,” said West Point head coach Chris Chambless. “We showed a lot of heart and I didn’t have to mention (the 0-2 start). With the heart and character of this team, they are going to bring it each week.”
Bring it they did, scoring on their first offensive play of the night. Following a 6-play, 66-yard drive by Starkville that gave the visiting Yellow Jackets a 6-0 lead, West Point senior wide receiver William Harrell took a simple slant pass from quarterback DeQuinton Spraggins, split a pair of defensive backs and raced 80 yards for a score, Harrell’s first of the season. Harrell’s scoring strike gave West Point a 7-6 lead, and set the tone for a back-and-forth first half.
“(William) is one of our most dependable guys, but he’s also explosive,” said Chambless. “People saw that tonight.”
Starkville would score in the second quarter on a 5-yard run by fullback Stanley Higgins, but West Point again answered, this time with junior Tez Lane capping a scoring drive with a 5-yard TD run. Spraggins had the big play of the drive, a 68-yard run that put the Wave in business inside the Starkville 20-yard line. Lane’s score came with just over three minutes to go in the half, and the Wave entered halftime with a 14-12 advantage.
“We were able to answer every time they made a play in the first half,” said Chambless. “At halftime, our coaches did a great job of making adjustments, and our players came out with that ‘refuse to lose’ mentality. We were a different team in the second half.”
Like he did in the first half, Harrell again set the tone in the second half, this time taking the opening kickoff of the half 99 yards for a score, breaking two tackles along the way. Though the return was called back to near midfield due to a blocking in the back penalty, Harrell’s return registered 60 yards.
West Point went to work quickly on offense, taking a 20-12 lead when Lane scored from 15 yards out early in the third quarter. On the night, Lane rushed for 64 yards and two scores.
Defensively, West Point turned in its finest performance of the year in the second half against Starkville, forcing three turnovers and sacking Starkville QB Gabe Myles twice.
The first turnover, a fumble into the endzone by Starkville tailback Devin Mitchell, stopped a Starkville drive and turned the momentum in West Point’s favor for good. The Wave responded with a 17-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 4-yard score by sophomore Aeris Williams, giving the Wave a 27-12 lead.
Junior fullback Mario Virges tacked on West Point’s final score, a 7-yard run following another fumble recovery by lineman Freddie Reed.
In all, West Point held Starkville to just 86 yards in the second half, and held the ball for 17 of a possible 24 minutes. Spraggins ended the night with 184 passing yards, while Harrell finished with 156 all-purpose yards.
Now 1-2, West Point will travel to face Noxubee County, 16-6 winners over Aberdeen, Friday night.