West Point vs. Starkville â€“ Chambless: 'the rivalry is alive'
West Point defensive back Johnathan Patterson (21) tries to catch Starkville's Devin Mitchell (32) in the earlier meeting between the two teams this season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Big football games and rivalries are fun for the players and fans.
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Even though they are solely focused on preparation, the atmosphere that crucial matchups present can be enjoyable for coaches also.
West Point coach Chris Chambless looks forward to Friday night's encounter with the Starkville Yellowjackets and has utmost respect for the SHS staff and what it has done this season. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Yellowjacket Stadium.
"It's going to be a good game," Chambless said. "The rivalry there is alive and it's going to be a hard fought, smash-mouthed football game. We wouldn't expect anything different. Their kids are pumped up and our kids are pumped up. We look for good old-fashioned football and that's what you ask for.
"The great thing about it is our staffs do things together. We play golf in the offseason and talk on the phone. I don't know if people realize it or not, but we pull for each other when we're not playing each other. It's going to be a fun game not only for the kids but for the coaches."
In the regular season meeting, the Green Wave bounced back from back-to-back losses to South Panola and Columbus to defeat the Jackets 33-12.
Both teams went on to have good seasons and Chambless isn't surprised that Starkville is standing in West Point's way from advancing in the Class 5A playoffs.
"We play game to game, but with both of us being in 5A, you look forward to meeting in the playoffs," Chambless said. "As long as both of us are on opposite sides or even if we are on the same side as far as division goes, somewhere down the line if we keep winning, we know we're going to have to face each other."
The Green Wave easily defeated Neshoba Central 43-14 at home last week and bring an 8-4 overall record into the game against the Jackets.
One of the bright spots for West Point has been the play of senior quarterback Dequinten Spraggins.
Spraggins has rushed and passed for over 1,000 yards this season by completing 67-of-141 pass attempts for 1,023 yards with nine touchdowns and running for 1,130 yards on 110 attempts and 14 scores.
With Spraggins being a first-year starter, Chambless expected him to have a rocky start, but that hasn't been the case.
"He's played well all year, not only with his feet and arm, but has played well mentally as far as leadership and controlling the huddle," Chambless said. "The things you expect your quarterback to do, that's what I've been impressed with."
As far as the rest of his squad, Chambless said it's young in spots and sometimes that youth comes out.
"We just strive to get better every day," Chambless said. "The kids continue to play hard, but sometimes mental mistakes are going to happen. As long as you can fight through them and overcome them, which we have been able to do, we're OK. Somewhere along the line in big ballgames, you are not going to be able to do that when you play against good football teams. We're trying to cut down on the mistakes and work on them every day."
When it comes to playing Starkville, Chambless knows errors can come back to haunt the Green Wave.
"The first time we played, they made those mental errors that we make," Chambless said. "That game was nip and tuck for a long time and could have gone either way. We just happened to get the breaks. That's what happens. It's what team gets the breaks."