West Point looks to get fourth-straight state title

Brandon Harris has the best rushing numbers for the Green Wave with 1,191 yards rushing this year and 18 touchdowns (Photo by Jason Cleveland, DTL file)
Daily Times Leader

A tale as old as time.

West Point loses great senior football players after a magical season leading to a state championship only to find itself right back in the Class 5A mix a year later. Here the Green Wave are, a team destined to fall right in line with the great teams of the past in West Point and another opportunity is on the line for a state championship.

This one would be an unprecedented number four in a row as the Greenies get set to head to Hattiesburg for a second year in a row and meet up with mighty Picayune in the battle of raging waters that no one has quite been able to tame this year.

For head coach Chris Chambless, it’s been another year where his players have bought in and done things the West Point way. It has him in position to win his sixth state title as the school’s head coach for the last 14 years.

“It seems like it’s been a long journey,” Chambless said. “We had a great offseason and I think that’s where it starts. We have great senior leadership and our guys have led us in the right direction. We’ve been fortunate enough to stay healthy. The team that is going to win this game is the one that controls the line of scrimmage enough and doesn’t turn the ball over.”

Chambless and Picayune head coach Dodd Lee are meeting up on Saturday night in a battle of two great football coaches at programs that have been dominant in their respective parts of the states over the years. Chambless has a record of 162-33 in 14 seasons with 10 seasons of 11 or more wins and no losing years during that stretch. During the last four seasons, the Green Wave have been an incredible 57-3 with no losses to a 5A program.

Lee is coming into the game with 24 seasons with the Maroon Tide and this game will be his last. The legendary coach is 223-70 in his time there with two state titles. This team might be one of his best with an offense that has racked up over 6,000 yards on the ground this year.

There’s no mistake who the player is that they count on the most as senior running back Cameron Thomas has 270 carries for an incredible 3,371 yards and 46 touchdowns. West Point likes to run the ball as well and they’ve got two 1,000 yard rushers in Brandon Harris and Dantariyus Cannon making Saturday’s game one that will see the clock run rapidly.

“They’re smash mouth and very physical,” Chambless said of Picayune. “You turn the film on and I can imagine it’s what some people think of when they watch us. They’re fixing to come down hill and hit us in the mouth. It may be the quickest game in state championship history.”

Harris has accepted his role like many players like him in the past. Most recently, it was Mississippi State sophomore Marcus Murphy, who would line up at quarterback and take the ball on the ground with the occasional pass sprinkled in.

Now, Harris wears the No. 2 jersey and has rushed for 1,191 yards this year and 18 touchdowns while passing for 748 and seven more scores. On Saturday, he’ll try to duplicate some of the memorable performances by Murphy in his back-to-back state championship MVP games in 2016 and 2017.
“I’ve been playing all of those positions since the eighth and ninth grade,” Harris said. “Coach trusts me with the ball and he’s told me to go make the community proud and come back with a championship.

“(Murphy) taught me everything I needed to know. He taught me to remain humble and let the game come to you. He told me to never back down from a fight whether it’s a good team or a bad team. When the gates close at Southern Miss, you can’t run.”

That’s the mentality that the Green Wave carries into Saturday’s game where the two best teams in 5A will get a chance to claim the title on the biggest stage. West Point players have been here before and they know what to expect.

It’s why after losing the first and only game of the season against Louisville 38-28 way back on August 30, the Green Wave have turned right back around and won 13-consecutive games. They’ll look to get No. 14 on Saturday night starting at 7 p.m. on the campus of Southern Mississippi.

“It wasn’t that we played bad against Louisville,” Chambless said. “We were young in the secondary. It wasn’t like ‘woe is me, the season is over.’ We wanted to get better. I’ve got some great assistant coaches who work their tail off. A lot of times I feel like the only thing I do is call timeout or decide to go for it on fourth down.”