By Bryan Davis
Daily Times Leader
Make it seven state championships for the West Point Green Wave.
West Point made its second consecutive and ninth overall trip to the state title game on Saturday night, and the Green Wave simply dominated the Panthers of Brookhaven High School to take home the golden football in repeat fashion.
West Point defeated the Panthers 21-3 in a smashmouth style that capped off a tremendous playoff run.
“It’s one of the best feelings in the world,” said Chambless, who has won two trophies as West Point’s head coach. “It’s like the icing on the cake and the cherry on top.”
Coming off a 47-0 victory over Ridgeland in the North Half game last week, the Green Wave were facing a Panther team that had come into the playoffs as a No. 4 seed, but Brookhaven waited until theplayoffs to play its best football.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Green Wave played their best ball in the final four weeks of the season too, and they emerged the better team on Saturday night.
What little momentum Brookhaven had on the night came in the opening minutes of the first quarter. After taking the kickoff to start the game, Panther quarterback Duwone Harris rushed for 37 yards up to the Green Wave 49 yard line.
It looked like West Point was going to be playing from behind early, as Harris and Travorius Showers marched the ball deep into the red zone.
On a fourth down, with four yards to go, Brookhaven was going for it, and they appeared to have it until Harris fumbled the ball into the end zone, where the West Point linebacker Justin Bobo recovered it and West Point took over at the 20-yard-line.
Having avoided the early deficit, West Point quarterback Justin Cox and senior running back LaKenderic Thomas began to grind away at the Brookhaven defense.
Thomas had a 30-yard-run in the drive, but for the most part, Brookhaven’s defense made the Green Wave work for what they would eventually get.
“They’re very physical up front,” Chambless said of the Panther line. “Jawaune Merchant’s one of the best defensive linemen in the state. He was hitting somebody every play.”
As difficult as the defensive line was, it did not stop Cox from taking the ball into the end zone from 11 yards out for the game’s first score with 5:05 to go in the first quarter. Eric Lemus’ extra point kick made it a 7-0 game.
The Green Wave defense then began to clamp down on Brookhaven. They made some adjustments from the first drive and settled down to eventually force a fourth down punt from the Panthers.
The Green Wave would then take the drive 51 seconds into the second quarter in the nine-play, 85-yard-drive that ended with Cox scoring a two-yard touchdown to make it 14-0.
The West Point defense went back to work, and work they did. It only took three solid plays before Brookhaven was punting the ball back to the Green Wave.
West Point’s offense embarked on a drive that lasted eight plays, but it only served to take time off the clock.
When Brookhaven got the ball back on a punt, they had a clock eating drive themselves, lasting 16 plays, but it would only result in three points that came on a field goal that went through the uprights as the buzzer sounded on the first half.
The second half began with a West Point possession that would not result in a score, but it was almost as good as seven points. Instead, the Green Wave took a little over seven minutes off the clock, time Brookhaven desperately needed to regroup.
The Panthers would finish out the final 4:46 of the third quarter, but they would begin the fourth by punting it away to West Point.
The Green Wave would do a little more eating of the clock, but this time, they would get the reward when Thomas finished the six-minute and two second drive with a 10-yard touchdown. Lemus kicked the extra point to make it a 21-3 game.
The two teams exchanged fumbles in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter, but it was West Point that recovered the final cough up, and they ran the ball until it was time to celebrate.
“We were able to do it this year for our community,” Chambless said. “It makes it even more special. I hope everybody understands that’s what we played for this year. It was for the survival of West Point.”
Cox rushed the ball 18 times in the game for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
Thomas had another stellar night on the ground, as he carried the ball 32 times for 174 yards and a score.
“He can run over you,” Chambless said of Thomas. He’s hard to tackle, and he gets a lot of yards after contact. Our offensive line does a great job of giving him an initial crease. Once he finds that crease, and he will find it, he’s going to do a good job.”
The championship win came thanks to a dominating performance on both sides of the ball. West Point outgained Brookhaven by over 200 yards, as the Wave offense collected 353 totals yard to Brookhaven’s 141. West Point’s defense forced two turnovers and sacked Harris twice, while the West Point ground game ran for 333 yards and three touchdowns.
“Throughout the playoffs, we’ve had a great defense,” Chambless said. “Our offense, man, what can I say about them?”
Chambless dedicated his team’s championship to the West Point community. The Green Wave coach said that the town and his team were both stories of survival.
“The coaching staff preached all year long that we wanted to be a bunch of survivors each week,” Chambless said. “We knew we were going to get everybody’s best shot every week. Some bad things were going to happen, just like in the community, but as long as you keep working and keep striving for the greatness and that prize at the end, we’d be successful.”
That they were.