WEST POINT • West Point’s football team doesn’t take out its opponents with one punch.
The Green Wave instead pound their foes into submission before landing the winning shot – in this case, a 20-7 MHSAA Class 5A state semifinals victory on Friday against visiting Neshoba Central.
Nursing a 12-7 lead, West Point marched 80 yards in 19 plays to chew up the fourth-quarter clock and score the deciding touchdown.
A 2-yard run by Jimothy Mays with 1:04 remaining clinched the Green Wave a berth in next Saturday’s state championship game against Picayune at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Prior to the decisive drive, West Point’s defense stopped Neshoba Central on downs at the Wave 38 following a shanked punt.
“That’s our forte,” West Point head coach Chris Chambless said. “That’s kind of the Green Wave way. We play really good defense and we’re going to run the clock and impose our will on opponents.
“When we can do that we’re a hard team to beat.”
West Point (14-1) enters the championship game as the three-time defending state champ.
Chambless has won five of the program’s 10 overall state crowns.
Green Wave quarterback Brandon Harris, a senior, rushed for 25 yards in the game-clinching drive. He had a 4-yard run on a fourth-and-1 and 2-yard run on a fourth-and-2. He also completed a third-and-5 pass for 11 yards to tight end T.J. Anderson in the final drive.
“Coach (Chambless) said we needed to go ice the game, go and score,” Harris said.
The Green Wave took a 6-0 first-quarter lead on Jakobe Pate’s 16-yard pass reception from Harris.
West Point’s defense, which held the Rockets to 38 yards total offense in the first half, stopped the visitors on downs at the Green Wave 16-yard line early in the second quarter.
West Point made it 12-0 in the second quarter on a 14-yard run by fullback Kelviontae Gibbs.
The Rockets (10-4) scored their lone touchdown on a 4-yard run by Marquez Hunter with 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
Turning Point: West Point’s 80-yard, 19-play fourth-quarter drive.
Point Man: Harris made the big plays in key situations on the final drive.
Talking Point: “It’s mandatory that the Wave has to win.” – West Point QB Brandon Harris.