Eleven join Wave scholarship ranks

West Point High senior signees are from left, front, Shun Crawford, EMCC; Jaylen Fungous, EMCC; Ryan Melton, South Alabama; Tyler Rupert, EMCC; back row, Brentt Cunningham, South Alabama; Brandon Lairy, EMCC; Ezekiel Head, EMCC; Latarius Embry, Mississippi Delta; Jake Chambless, EMCC; Daniel Comer; Jaylon Webb, Northwest; and Kearis Smith, EMCC.
Staff Writer

Last year at about this time, Coach Chris Chambless didn’t think the school could match what it had just accomplished — back-to-back state Class 5A football championships and 12 seniors signing college football scholarships.

Well, Wednesday, the Green Wave was at it again, this time with 11 scholarships, including two to Division 1 schools, and some more possible.

And oh yeah, they were flashing three fingers and a fistful of rings this time, too, marking their third straight state title in a year when most pundits said they couldn’t do it.
“I didn’t think it was possible to have as many scholarships.

But this turned out to be a special group, they all are special,” Chambless, the veteran coach and winner of five state titles, said when reminded of last year’s comment.

This year’s group includes his son, Jake, who quarterbacked this year’s state champs and graduated in December. He’s enrolled at East Mississippi Community College and already put on 20 pounds getting ready for spring practice, said Chambless, turning from proud coach to proud father.

Two others, Brentt Cunningham and Ryan Melton, are taking their skills to the D-1 South Alabama Jaguars in Mobile, Ala.

Chambless has been trying to strengthen the pipeline into Alabama universities and these two may help he told a crowd of students and parents who filled the school’s auditorium to witness the signings.

“Once they see these two, they’ll come back, they’ll see the type of players, it could mean another scholarship or two down the line. One of our goals is to try to get every one of them an opportunity for higher education if we can,” Chambless said.

South Alabama turned out to be a good fit for both Melton and Cunningham. The Jaguars need defensive backs and safeties with only four on their roster after last season. They’ve gone out and recruited some, including Melton, giving them a chance to play quickly.

“I liked everything,” Melton said.

Cunningham’s father liked what he saw of the campus and Mobile, the home of the original Mardis Gras with a developing reputation as a vibrant cultural city.

“I really liked my visit down there. And they focus on the academics, that was important,” Cunningham’s father, Orlando Fields, said, sporting a Jaguars football shirt.

While each of the players showed promise from the first time they donned the green colors, a couple raised the staff’s eyebrows along the way.

Kearis Smith moved to West Point from Noxubee County after his freshman year there.

He’d already won a state title with the Tigers and then moved into West Point’s offensive line, winning three more rings.
“He knew about winning,” Chambless said of Smith.

One of his line mates is Ezekiel Head.

“We always had someone like a Marcus Murphy who could go into the huddle when it was third and three or fourth a one and say, ‘OK. time to bow up’,” Chambless said, referring to Murphy, who just completed his freshman year playing for Mississippi State.

“We needed that in the line. Ezekiel was one who took on that leadership role. Without him in the huddle, I’m not sure what would have happened,” Chambless said of the quiet, unassuming senior.

Now, Head and Smith will take their talents to East Mississippi Community College.
In fact, with five signees last year and seven this year, the national champion Lions will have a distinctly West Point flavor.

Linebackers Tyler Rupert and Brandon Lairy, wide receiver Shun Crawford, and defensive lineman Jaylen Cungious are the others joining Coach Buddy Stephens and the nationally recognized Lions’ system.

“The program speaks for itself for how it develops players, what it teaches them and the opportunities, both in the classroom and on the playing field,” Chambless said of EMCC.
Ladarius Embry signed with Mississippi Delta Community College and Jaylon Webb signed with Northwest Community College.

Another senior, Daniel Comer, decided at the last minute not to sign. He’s going to Mississippi University for Women to focus on academic, Chambless said.

“We feel like every senior deserves a chance, an opportunity, because of the work ethic, the pride they’ve put into the team, the game and the classroom. They’ve earned it,” Chambless told the crowd. “They understand what it takes, other places don’t put the emphasis on it all like we do.”

But having been there this year and with another son on on the team, Chambless understands another side of it even better than he has before.

‘We couldn’t do any of this without the families, the moms and dads and grandparents and brothers and sisters who support us, who support the team, who put their hearts into and who take pride in the program, not just football but all the sports. That makes all the difference in the world, go ask any coach anywhere and they’ll tell you that. That support makes us work harder and won’t to do even better. You can’t put a price on that pride,” concluded Chambless, who just finished his 23rd year coaching.