Here’s a closer look at the 2020 Class 5A MHSAA Football State Championship between West Point and West Jones:
5A State Championship
West Point (11-3) vs. West Jones (12-2)
Saturday — 7 p.m. @ Veteran’s Memorial Stadium
(Feature photo by Keith Warren)
West Point Preview:
Head Coach: Chris Chambless (15th season, 173-36)
State Champs: 1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
RB Cameron Young: 219 carries, 1,452 yards, 21 TD
LB Jykeon Cunningham: 115 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks
DL Jaquarius Thomas: 72 tackles, 6 TFL, 8 sacks, 2 FF
Back in mid-October, it looked like West Point’s chances of competing for a fifth-straight state title were on life support. The Green Wave was 4-3 with losses to Starkville, Lake Cormorant and Grenada, and the offense looked like it was going to be the team’s Achilles heel.
Flash forward seven weeks, and West Point has strung together six-straight wins, put up an average of nearly 38 points a game and is back in the championship game.
“We had some bumps in the road early,” Green Wave coach Chris Chambless said. “We lost three games early in the season to some really good teams. But we learned a lot from those games. We learned how to practice well coming off a loss, and we learned how to play unselfish football.”
The other lesson they learned is what works for this offense, and that’s relentlessly running the football. West Point has run 175 offensive plays during this three-game playoff run, and they’ve only thrown the ball 19 times.
Even with opposing defenses knowing it’s coming, there hasn’t been much anybody can do about it, either. The Green Wave has rolled to more than 1,000 yards in three playoff games. They took it to a new level in their 29-22 win over Ridgeland in the North State final, rushing 60 times for 342 yards and all four touchdowns.
“They do such a good job with shifts and movements before the snap,” West Jones coach Scott Pierson said. “It creates mismatches where they have one more blocker than you have tackler, so the first thing anyone has to do against them is line up correctly, then you have to do it 50 more times in a row.”
Don’t expect the game plan to change much this week, either. Chambless knows if his offense can hold the ball for much of the game and cash in touchdowns in the red zone — as it did against a really good Ridgeland team last week — they can win the game with just one or two stops.
And West Point’s no slouch on defense either. For all the success Zy McDonald and Ridgeland had against the Wave defense last week, the two turnovers on downs and a couple of punts West Point forced was enough to come out with the win.
If that big West Point line can keep the pressure turned up on West Jones quarterback Alan Follis and get one or two stops or turnovers, it could be enough again.
West Jones Preview:
Head Coach: Scott Pierson (18th year, 176-58)
State Champs: None
QB Alan Follis: 119 of 213, 2,034 yards, 19 TD
RB Kentrell Pruitt: 163.5 yards/game, 22 TD
West Jones has been through the ringer in 2020. They started out white-hot, but had to sit out two weeks for COVID-19. They won three region games via forfeit, but ended up having to spend the entire postseason on the road anyway when they couldn’t reschedule an Oct. 2 game against South Jones.
The Mustangs remained unfazed: they beat a good Picayune team on the coast in the first round, avenged their only on-field loss of the season “Between the Bricks” at Laurel in the second round and won 18-16 at Pascagoula in a monsoon to get here.
It’s been an amazing run, but the Mustangs have one more step to take, and it’s a big one.
“I feel like we’ve had a great week of practice,” West Jones coach Scott Pierson said. “We know what’s in front of us and what the challenge is, but we’re focused on the task at hand, and that’s trying to slow them down.”
The Mustangs are going to have their hands full with the West Point running game, so there’s little room for error against the four-time reigning 5A Champs when they get a chance to score.
The West Jones offense has been balanced all season, but the game very well might hinge on the play of quarterback Alan Follis.
“Let’s be honest,” Pierson said. “Our quarterback has to play really well. If we can’t pitch and catch it Saturday, we won’t be very successful. But we have a lot of confidence in Alan.”
If Follis can get into a rhythm the way Ridgeland’s Zy McDonald did last week and the Mustangs can put up some points, they’ve got a great shot of knocking off the champs.