COLUMBUS, Miss., - Still reeling from a last second loss to South Panola in their opening game two weeks ago, West Point came out sluggish Friday night against Columbus and found themselves trailing 12-0 six minutes before halftime and needing something positive to happen.
The Falcons had just connected on a 42-yard touchdown pass to go up by two scores and that's when it happened for the Green Wave. Junior Aeris Williams took the ensuing kickoff straight up the gut for a 86-yard touchdown to rejuvenate West Point.
The Green Wave went on to score 20 more unanswered points for a 26-19 victory, their first of the season evening their record to 1-1.
But it may never have happened had it not been for the spark provided by Williams on the kickoff return.
"Coach called me over on the sideline and told me that if come into the hole and I break it that we will have it," Williams said. "I got to the hole and I just took it."
However that was not exactly how the West Point coaches had the return drawn up.
"It's funny how the ball bounces," said Green Wave head coach Chris Chambless. "We didn't catch it like we are supposed to and I go from fuming in one split second to saying 'go, go, go' the next. Football is a game of emotions and you can quickly forget that they didn't catch it like they are supposed to. The ball bounced right to him and he was able to get it and go."
That would not be the only time Williams reached the end zone that evening. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder would score three more times on the ground from 2, 19 and 46-yards out to finish with 156 yards on a workmanlike 33 carries.
"I just thank god for giving me the opportunity to play," Williams said. "I have to thank my o-line too because without them I wouldn't have made it. I think everybody stepped up and we just got it done."
Chambless was happy to see his first year starter in the backfield have success early on this season.
"Aeries is there every day ready to work," Chambless said. "He works extremely hard and has a good head on his shoulders. He makes good grades and is a model football player. He's what you want and leads by example. He doesn't say a whole lot but when he does need to speak up he will."
But Williams was not the only West Point back to eclipse the 100-yard plateau. Quarterback Tez Lane rushed 18 times for 128 yards combining with Williams for 284 yards on the ground.
"We love each other," Williams said. "When we put our heads together we can do anything."
The Green Wave did not complete a pass in the contest gaining all of its yards on the ground.
It was a stark contrast on the other sideline as Columbus (1-1) totaled only eight yards rushing relying on the arm of Trace Lee. The junior quarterback and younger brother of former Mississippi State signal caller Tyson Lee completed 15-of-32 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Now with the first win under their belt and the confidence that goes with it, Chambless feels his Green Wave are poised for a special season.
"We've got a lot of potential," Chambless said. "We've got a lot of great kids with great chemistry. You don't have to beg them to work. I expect big things for us."
West Point 0 14 6 6 - 26
Columbus 6 6 0 7 - 19
CHS - Iziah Jones 15-yard run (kick blocked)
CHS - Quan Latham 42-yard touchdown catch from Trace Lee (pass failed)
WPHS - Aeris Williams 86-yard kickoff return (Eric Lemus kick)
WPHS - Williams 2-yard run (Lemus kick)
WPHS - Williams 19-yard run (run failed)
WPHS - Williams 46-yard run (kick failed)
CHS - DeMarcus Vance 41-yard touchdown catch from Lee (Michael Sturdivant kick)
First Downs: 11 8
Rushes-Yards: 58-280 17-8
Passing Yards: 0 240
Comp-Att-Int: 0-0-0 15-32-0
Return Yards: 101 18
Turnovers: 1 1
Penalties: 6-40 8-37
Rushing: WP - Aeries Williams 33-156, Tez Lane 18-128, Roger Thomas 2-2, Team 5-(-6); CHS - Iziah Jones 5-23, Corey Brown 3-0, Kendrick Conner 3-(-1), Team 1-(-2), DeMarcus Vance 2-(-5), Trace Lee 3-(-7)
Passing: WP - Delentez Lane 0-5-0-0-0; CHS - Trace Lee 15-32-249-2-0
Receiving: CHS - DeMarcus Vance 6-85, Quan Latham 2-49, Dalon Moore 3-30, Keith Brooks 1-29, J.J. Swanigan 1-24, Jimmy Cockrell 2-23