Green Wave strong in claiming 10th state title in school history

Robbie Faulk
Staff Writer

According to many outside of the West Point locker room, the 2018 version of the Green Wave was supposed to step aside and allow someone else to take control of Class 5A.

West Point had its day with the last two state championship trophies in tow and the Green Wave sent a talented senior class off in style. What those outside of the locker room didn’t know is that the tank was still very much full.

Senior cornerback Ryan Melton has played a major part in all three state titles but non bigger than on Saturday night when he blocked a punt and ran it back for a touchdown and had a gameclinching interception in the fourth quarter. It all helped the Green Wave to its 10th state title with a 27-12 victory over West Jones at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium.

“He said he was going to make a play and he made a play,” West Point head coach Chris Chambless said of Melton. “I helped raise him – his dad used to be my linebackers coach so he’s been running around the field house since he was knee high. I knew what he was capable of doing.”

For most of the game, the Green Wave looked like the team that had been there before.

West Point played with precision and poise and made the plays when it needed to make them – most notably the two big plays from Melton.

Melton finished the night with five tackles, a pass breakup, the interception and block. Brandon Lairy led the team with eight tackles and Jaylen Cungious had seven stops with a sack. Jequarius Thomas and Stededric Griffis finished with 1.5 tackles for loss each.

Offensively, the Green Wave (14-1) once again controlled the game with the rushing attack. They finished with 315 yards of offense with 227 coming on the ground. Brandon Harris was the bell cow with his 23 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown. He also threw a 25-yard touchdown pass. West Jones (12-3) had 250 yards of total offense but were 11-of-27 passing.

A promising opening drive by the West Jones offense ended in a field goal from 46 yards out, but West Point was going to make the Mustangs pay for not finishing.

The Green Wave drove 80 yards on nine plays converting a fourth down along the way and Brandon Harris hit Treddis Anderson for a 25-yard touchdown. They came right back and got a three-and-out defensively on the next possession and Ryan Melton blocked a punt, scooped it up and ran it back 25 yards for another score suddenly making it 14-3.

“Coach (Brett Morgan) told us all week that is was going to be there and to just be patient,” Melton said of the block. “It was a huge momentum shift. It silenced the crowd and the team.”

Another West Jones field goal came midway through the second quarter and West Point would again trade that field goal for six points. They drove the ball 80 yards on just six plays set up by big runs from Jaylun Eggerson and Brandon Harris. Eggerson capped the drive with a 2-yard run and it was 20-6 going to the break.

West Jones got that momentum back in the third quarter.

Jake Chambless threw an interception on the opening possession of the second half and West Jones immediately went to the big play. Quarterback Alan Follis hit a slant route from Antonie Deontae Kirk and he raced 61 yards to the end zone to cut into the lead at 20-12.

Things got hairy for West Point at the start of the fourth quarter as Jose Lemus had his punt blocked and recovered at the 26, but that’s when Melton came through again.

A hard blitz from the Green Wave defense forced a pass to hang in the air and Melton picked it off at the 10-yard line.

That gave West Point all the momentum it needed.

“(The receiver) tried a double move and I didn’t bite on it," Melton said. "We work on getting the ball at the highest point and I got my hands on it. I felt like I had to do a lot. Without that play, they could have scored, gone for two points and we could still be in overtime.”

The Green Wave had a dominating final possession that took over 6 minutes off of the clock as they marched 84 yards down the field in 15 plays and Harris ended all doubt with his 5-yard touchdown run to clinch the win.

The victory for West Point made it just the second team in Mississippi history to win 10 state titles and closed the gap tremendously in the last three years with South Panola, trailing the dynasty in Batesville by just one now.

Coach Chris Chambless has won five of those 10 titles in his time as head coach and they’ve all been special to him.

This one, however, meant a little bit more. The senior class finished with a 43-2 record in their careers and Chambless’ son, Jake, was a part of it all as the quarterback.

That class will always stick with the coach.

“With this senior group and the job they’ve done all year being the leaders, it’s real special,” coach Chambless said. “It’s just been a special year.”