Wave readies for Horn Lake after jamboree tilt

Quarterback Brandon Harris (2) attempts to shake a Cougar defender as he runs on a quarterback keeper play. (Photo by Ryan Phillips, DTL)
Staff Writer

The game may not count in any win-loss column, but West Point High School football coach Chris Chambless hopes Friday’s two-quarter jamboree loss to the visiting North Panola Cougars will provide a valuable learning experience for his squad as it prepares for a run at a fourth-straight 5A state title.

Points were at a premium as both team’s offenses worked through the offseason rust, with the two varsity quarters ending 6-0 in North Panola’s favor.

The Green Wave came out of the gate struggling to move the football, with senior back Brandon Harris taking the majority of snaps at quarterback, rotating out with fellow senior Gray Berry.

The first drive of the game for the Wave stalled with a three and out, but the West Point defense lived up to its hard-nosed tradition and shut down a fast-paced Cougar offense that leaned heavily on the vertical passing game and short screens. And although the Wave’s passing game showed a need for improvement, running backs Dantariyus Cannon and Jimothy Mays split carries to help the offense move the ball where it could.

But with two minutes to go in the first quarter, a 35-yard pass, followed by a lengthy quarterback run put the Cougars into Green Wave territory, before another 35-yard strike on a wheel route put the Cougars up 6-0 as the first quarter — or “half” — came to a close. The ensuing two-point play failed, though, as the Green Wave defense would tighten up and not allow another Cougar score the rest of the night.

To start the second half action, the Wave looked to have a spark of life forcing a Cougar punt, but a fumble on the return gave North Panola the ball back.

Despite another pass-heavy drive, penalties hurt the Cougars and gave breathing room to the Green Wave defense.

With a little more than seven minutes to go in the varsity game, a West Point drive was cut short by a fumbled snap that set up a third and long play resulting in a Cougar defender intercepting a pass from Harris.

But the Greenies on defense were undeterred by the turnover, shutting the door on a potential Cougar scoring drive that saw the home team pinned deep in its own territory.

Both teams traded the ball once more, which saw a Cougar punt set up the last drive of the game for the Green Wave offense with 1:34 left to go.

Unfortunately for the home squad, a magical comeback wasn’t in the cards as the Greenies turned the ball over on downs for the final drive of the came, which set up a victory formation for the Cougars.

B-Team action fared better for the Green Wave, which saw tough running from sophomore running back Chris Ivy and junior Christopher Terry.

Following the jamboree, Chambless said he was most impressed by how his younger players stepped up when given the opportunity.

“We played a lot of guys and got them on film and will go back and critique them and go into next week,” Chambless said.

The head coach’s biggest takeaway, he said, was that his squad can’t beat itself, alluding to fumbled snaps and the struggles to capitalize on offense.

But he is still hopeful heading into next week’s season opener.

“That’s why we play jamborees, to kind of get in game mode,” he said. “It’s two quarters, I’d like to play four, but it’s a jamboree, so it is what it is. We didn’t make a couple plays and beat ourselves a little bit, but it’s a positive because that stuff can be fixed, that’s why you do this.”

The Wave will open up its 2019 regular season campaign on the road at Horn Lake, the defending 6A state champs who finished a perfect 15-0 last year.

While the Eagles finished at the top last season, Horn Lake dropped its jamboree Friday to Corinth High School 27-26.