Character of a true champion always on display

Will Nations
Staff Writer

CLARIFICATION: I would like to extend a clarification to West Point senior Everrett Cunningham and his family. In my Sunday game story for West Point versus Oxford, I mentioned the tackle that Cunningham was ejected for at the game’s conclusion. I wrote “The play was a read-option, leaving Abraham as an assignment for Cunningham.” The use of “assignment” needs to be fleshed out. No, Cunningham was not on assignment to intentionally tackle or cause injury to Abraham. Rather assignment was used in terms of Cunningham was in charge on a read-option to make sure the quarterback did not gain any yards, which he did an excellent job. Cunningham had no intention of maiming or hurting Abraham. I apologize for any misconceptions.

The character of a champion is a subjective opinion.
On Friday night, I witnessed this difference in the subjectivity that revolves around a champion’s character. As there are good and bad winners, there are also true champions and pretending champions.
Let me set the scene.
As Oxford sent its offense onto the field at Bobby Holcombe Field, the Chargers led the West Point Green Wave 50-22 with four minutes remaining in a seemingly decided contest. It wasn’t the second-string or third-string offenses; it was Oxford’s starters that trotted out on the field with a 22-point advantage. West Point also sent out its first-string unit.
The Chargers methodically moved the ball down the field and inside West Point’s 20-yard line with under a minute remaining in the game. Oxford seemed intent on getting into the end zone again. The Chargers ran a read option and that resulted in a two-yard gain and their quarterback tackled on the ground. The play saw the ejection of a West Point player for nothing more than a football tackle.
The game’s final play seemed to touch a nerve with the Oxford coaching staff, who took matters into their own hands. Both teams began to shake hands in the middle of the field when an angered Oxford assistant, according to sources on the West Point coaching staff, created a scuffle at midfield. No punches were thrown, but law enforcement was used to break up the incident. As West Point left the field, Oxford chanted or taunted (however you would like to see it) “This ain’t (sic) what they want.”
The final incident surrounding this high school football game left me a little perplexed. One, if you are going to get upset that your starting quarterback was involved in a tackle, late, in an already decided ball game, why is he even in the game? Why didn’t you take knee to run the remainder of the clock out? Two, your quarterback left the field without any assistance from the medical staff. He was not injured, he was just a little shaken up because he remained in an already decided game. Three, I am extremely competitive, but I believe a score speaks louder than taunts.
These three things, a combination of questions and a thought, led me to this conclusion. I think there’s a reason Johnny Hill and the Oxford Chargers have failed to win a state championship the past two seasons with its slew of talent. Oxford attempted to embarrass another group of 14-18 year olds. They could’ve ran out the clock and not worried about scoring again. It got mad when West Point continued to play ball. It got mad that its quarterback, who shouldn’t been the game, got put on the ground. Hill and the Chargers get over your preconceived notions and stop pretending to be champions. You are not.
Champions display sportsmanship and always put it on display. They aren’t boastful. They have class.
In Clay County, there are plenty of true champions from what I have observed. West Point boasts seven championships but showed true character when it possessed self-control not to retaliate when provoked by Oxford’s football team. Oak Hill, who has a state title, has shown a champion’s mentality all season as it has faced relentless adversity from recurring injuries. In Pheba, Hebron Christian battles with a limited roster and continues to win. None of Clay County’s teams display this attitude that Oxford does.
I am proud of the way all three coaching staffs and teams hold themselves on a weekly basis. I am not a native son, but I am sure proud to be an adopted West Pointian and Clay Countian.
Y’all are true champs. Keep it up.

Follow Will Nations on Twitter @NationsSports.