By Bryan Davis
When anyone talks about football dynasties in Mississippi, three teams usually come up in conversation. South Panola (8), Louisville (7) and West Point (6) combined boast 21 state championships since 1981.
Last December, the 5A state championship between the Green Wave and Wayne County featured nine titles between the two teams. Wayne County won its third ring in 2006.
It’s not at all uncommon for state championship games to feature mainstay powerhouses, packed with grid iron tradition. West Point’s last two championships were won against Wayne County, a frequent visitor to Jackson.
In 2010, however, the bout for the 5A state title will be one fought between the well established culture of West Point playoff football and the growing tradition of the Brookhaven Panthers.
The Green Wave championship story dates back almost three decades to the year 1982. The fledgling classification system in Mississippi high school sports was merely a year old. West Point was classified in the AA football class. The Green Wave team defeated Gulfport High School for the first of what would eventually be half a dozen state titles over the next 28 years.
West Point would win the title game in three consecutive seasons spanning 1987, 1988 and 1989. The first two were 4A titles, while the latter was the team’s first 5A championship. They reached the game in 1986, but finished runners-up.
The Green Wave would have to wait another 16 years before they would emerge victorious over the 5A class again.
The 2002 season saw the Green Wave return to the title game, but Wayne County came out on top. In 2005, they defeated Wayne County for title No. 5. One year ago, the Green Wave rolled over Wayne County again for the sixth.
Currently, West Point is enjoying its tenth straight season in the playoffs. In those 10 years, they have two state titles and four North Half titles.
When West Point arrives at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson on Saturday, they’ll be on the other side of the field from a Brookhaven team that is trying to establish itself as a yearly state title contender.
In 2004, head coach Tucker Peavy’s (nine years head coach at Brookhaven) Panthers took home the 4A state title, the school’s first ever. Over a seven-year stretch, Peavy has guided the Panthers to the post-season.
Brookhaven has won its district in 2003, 2004, 2007 and tied for the title in 2006.
Since 2003, 11 Panthers have been selected to play in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game, and 20 of Brookhaven’s players have gone on to receive college scholarships to play.
Brookhaven breezed through the first round of the 2010 playoffs at Long Beach. The following week, they faced off against last year’s runners-up, Wayne County, and they won by a touchdown to proceed to round three against undefeated West Jones.
The Panthers proved they were no fluke when they slipped past the West Jones team 27-26, advancing to Saturday’s game.
Now that the 5A title is down to two teams, neither side will be thinking about traditions at kickoff.
West Point will be playing an entirely new opponent this year. Thoughts of 2009 and the other five years of championship football won’t matter inside regulation.
Brookhaven will be trying to nail down title No. 2 for their school. There will be plenty of time for talk of tradition and dynasty later.
That talk can start when the buzzer sounds to end the game, whether in regulation or overtime.
However Saturday’s game turns out, nothing will detract from either team’s quest to establish or continue its football tradition.
West Point’s been there eight times and has won six. This is Brookhaven’s second trip to the most coveted game in high school football.
Any talk of an underdog can be thrown out. Both teams will exit the field powerhouses.
West Point will always have the longer history in championship football, but the Panthers are currently making history.