By Bryan Davis
It has all come down to Brookhaven and West Point. The Green Wave (13-1) trounced over the Ridgeland Titans last Friday night to secure their spot in the 5A state championship game this Saturday.
The Panthers (9-4) likewise rolled over then undefeated West Jones on Friday, and they will represent the South in the game.
“They had everybody healthy,” said West Point head coach Chris Chambless. “They were able to play a very physical ball game against West Jones and came out on top in the end. When you’re able to do that, you make a statement to south Mississippi. Now they’re going to bring it to Jackson to try and make a statement to the state. We’ve go to do what we have to do to off set that and combat that..”
Last year, the 5A game saw West Point roll past Wayne County for its sixth school championship. Playing the role of the defenders this weekend, the Green Wave face a new opponent in the season’s final contest.
While the two teams have a lot of differences, the most glaring similarity is the fact that both clubs have been playing their best ball over the last month.
After the two teams had completed three games earlier this season, they both had the same record of 2-1. Brookhaven’s first loss was sandwiched between a pair of wins over Franklin County and Lawrence County. West Point won their first two games, including a home opener victory over Shannon, who had been the only team to defeat the Green Wave in 2009, and a long road trip win over Mainland High School at Daytona Beach, Fla.
After the Mainland game, and a week off, West Point returned home to take a 20-0 lead into half time over Starkville. A pair of costly turnovers in the third quarter led to a Yellowjacket rally and a 21-20 loss. Not only was that the only loss for West Point on the season, but those were the last fumbles until late in the fourth quarter of last Friday night’s game.
With district games fast approaching, the Green Wave and Panther fans were waiting to see how their teams would respond. West Point proceeded to win 11 games in row, including seven district games and three playoff matches.
Brookhaven, on the other hand, had a tougher time. As the Panthers dealt with injuries over the course of the district portion of the season, they lacked consistency. They lost three out of their next four games, all league contests.
“They weren’t healthy,” said Chambless. “They’ve got their guns fully loaded now. It’s going to be very tough on us. We’re very similar teams.”
They were inconsistent until October 22, when they faced Stone High School and won 28-19. That was the start of a winning streak that has yet to be stopped.
Brookhaven went on to win at McComb, Forest Hill and Long Beach, which was the first round of the 5A playoffs. In round two, they faced Wayne County, last year’s representative from the South in the state title game. The Panthers shocked the world once again with a 21-14 win.
On Friday night, they had only one more foe to face to get into the most coveted game for any team. They had to beat undefeated West Jones. They did so 27-26.
West Point, as well, rolled through the first three rounds of the playoffs, taking out Provine at home, Oxford on the road and undefeated Ridgeland 47-0 at home.
On the season, West Point scored around 29.6 points per game, while allowing 12.4. Brookhaven scored 24.4, while giving up around 19.2 points per game.