By Brandon Walker
Daily Times Leader
As the head coach of the defending state champions, West Point’s Chris Chambless is accustomed to getting every team’s best shot.
That’s exactly what the Green Wave got from visiting Oxford Friday night.
West Point dodged a bullet Friday night, stuffing a potential game-tying 2-point conversion attempt with 91 seconds left to hang on for a thrilling 22-20 win and to take control of the Division 1-5A race.
“I’ve been telling everybody that Oxford is a good team – a very good team,” said Chambless. “And they showed that tonight. They are very well-coached and they’ve got some tremendous athletes. This is a good win for our team.”
It was a win that seemed unlikely for nearly a quarter Friday night, as Oxford attempted to seize control early. One year after nearly pulling an upset of the eventual state champs in a 33-30 loss in Oxford, the Chargers entered Friday night’s contest looking like a team that expected to win. During the first half, that looked like a strong possibility.
Oxford outgained West Point 152-45 in the first quarter and took a 7-0 lead with just under two minutes to go when wide receiver DeShaun McNeal took a handoff from QB Guy Cameron Billups and then threw a 9-yard TD pass to the Oxford signal caller. Kicker Wade Lindley added the PAT, and Oxford carried a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.
Trailing by a touchdown, West Point received a spark from a likely source early in the second quarter.
Backed up to its own 7-yard line, West Point turned to senior QB Justin Cox, who delivered a stunning 92-yard touchdown run. Cox faked a handoff to tailback LaKenderic Thomas, drifted off right tackle and took off down the home sideline, outrunning three Oxford defensive backs on the way to paydirt. Kicker Eric Lemus added the PAT to tie the score at 7-7.
“Justin’s a big-time player,” said Chambless. “When we need a play or things aren’t going as well as we want them to, we know we can depend on him to deliver”
After Billups helped Oxford regain the lead with a 52-yard touchdown pass to Monquarius Gibson, Cox again helped West Point fight back. With his team trailing 14-7 with just 1:19 to go in the first half, Cox engineered a 4-play, 63-yard scoring drive that gave West Point a much-needed boost of momentum heading into the locker room. The big play was a 34-yard scamper by Cox, who rushed for 178 yards on 12 carries on the night, to the Oxford 4-yard line, which set up a 4-yard scoring plunge from Thomas. Lemus’s kick sailed wide, and Oxford held a 14-13 lead at the break.
The Green Wave took the lead for good in the third quarter, when Cox capped a 9-play, 76-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring strike to wideout Jamarius Tallie with 3:42 to go in the third quarter. When the 2-point conversion failed, West Point held a 19-14 lead.
That lead would stretch to 22-14 on a Lemus 33-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter, a kick that was set up by a brilliant play from junior WR Will Harrell (See story below).
That lead would hold up, as West Point stuffed Oxford’s Stan Ivy on a 2-point conversion with 1:31 to go. Ivy’s failed attempt came after a 10-play, 75 yard drive that gave Oxford an opportunity at forcing overtime.
“Offensively, Oxford is one of the better teams in all of Class 5A,” Chambless said. “We knew they were going to come in here and give us a fight, so I’m proud that our guys were able to meet the challenge.”
On the night, West Point and Oxford battled to a statistical stand-still, with the Wave outgaining the Chargers 372-370. West Point ran for 286 yards, and Cox passed for 86. For his part, Cox accounted for 264 yards of offense and had a hand in two Wave touchdowns.
Now 3-0 in division play, West Point will begin its stretch of three road games in four weeks on Friday when it travels to face Lake Cormorant, which dropped a 21-0 decision to New Hope on Friday night.