Chambless talks Green Wave football at Rotary

From left, Rotary members Bruff Sanders, Larry Pitre and Tim Fowler talk with West Point High football coach Chris Chambless after Thursday's Rotary meeting.
Staff Writer

With back-to-back state 5A high school football titles in his pocket, can coach Chris Chambless and the Green Wave "three-peat?'

The affable coach certainly was asked Thursday and he gave the typical coach response," We'll be young." In fact, the audience at the West Point Rotary Club shouted the response before Chambless could even tap dance around the issue.

But during his review of the championship season with what he called "the best team" he's ever had, the veteran coach dropped some hints of what might be in store.

For instance, he noted his starters only played in the second half four times in 15 games and one of those was the last one, the state championship. That means young players were on the field almost as much as the starters and against quality opponents ranging from 6A Columbus to state playoff qualifier Olive Branch.

In fact, at point late in the year, the Green Wave's back-up quarterback had more snaps than the starters, including MSU signee and all-everything Marcus Murphy.

Officially, the Wave graduates 26 seniors, including Murphy who already is enrolled at MSU, has put on six pounds and is "loving it." A total of 26 juniors are returning for their senior year, 27 sophomores will be juniors and about 40 freshmen will be sophomores, he told the Rotary.

"Do I have any who can go 80 yards with the ball right now? No. But I've got a bunch who will give it their all trying. And we've got several who can get you 20 or 60 or so. That's what you are looking for," he said, addressing more the mindset than the talent he has returning.

And that mindset is telling. In fact, he knew last season's championship team had the potential when the players were in junior high.

"They had an attitude about them, their swagger," the coach said.

"It was a coaches' dream. We knew they were going to take care of it on the field. All we had to do was make sure we had good buses," he joked.

And while most of the seniors from last fall's dominating 15-0 team still are completing school, Chambless says next year's team already is looking ahead.

"It's a balancing act. The seniors come around and still want to be a part of things, but we have to be looking ahead," he says of the approach with the young players who now must carry on the legacy.

But because of the senior leadership the last two years, the returning players understand what it takes and have bought in. They understand the "refuse to lose" approach and the idea that "tough people win," mentally and physically.

As for some of the points in the season, he said he "knew the game was over" when Calloway players entered the field in the state playoffs and ran all the way to West Point's end and started chattering with West Point players.

"Our kids kept their cool. You don't challenge us."

His team also got a little disgusted when district rival Olive Branch got a lot of media attention early in the season. The two teams ended up playing twice, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs. West Point outscored Olive Branch 90-13 with the starters sitting both second halves.

"Our guys wanted to prove a statement," the coach said.

And in the state championship game at Ole Miss against Hattiesburg, "We went in with a swag. We were humble, but we had a swagger," he recalled.

As for 6A champ Pearl, Chambless said he thought his Wave would have won by three touchdowns if they'd played.

The toughest team they faced all year was early in the season at Louisville, a 27-7 win where the Wildcats lead 7-0 before the Green Wave got on track. The starters played that entire game.

Chambless thinks Louisville will win the 4A state title this year in coach M.C. Miller's final season, especially with Louisville hiring ousted Columbus coach Randal Montgomery to be offensive coordinator and take over when Miller retires.

And finally, he wouldn't say how many of his other players might ink scholarships on the Feb. 7 signing day, but he would say his most underrated player this year was Jason Brownlee, an outstanding receiver as a junior and senior who also played a key role on defense.

"He is one of the best players I've ever coached," Chambless said, noting he has gotten offers from a number of smaller D-1 schools ranging from Murray State to Arkansas State but may consider signing with a junior college, playing for a year and seeing if the bigger programs don't come knocking after that.

"Recruiting is based so much on summer camps and how you look there. He didn't really blossom until after that," Chambless said.