HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Sixteen weeks, one champ


JACKSON - A few all-star games remain to be played, but the team portion of the 2009 high school football season ended on Saturday night with West Point's 35-14 MHSAA Class 5A championship game win over Wayne County.

"If I could, I would cry," said West Point senior lineman Curtis Virges, moments after his team won its sixth state title. "But I can't cry. Oh man, it feels so good."

West Point emerged victorious at Jackson's Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium this weekend, two other area teams did not.

But that shouldn't take away from the great seasons Aberdeen (Class 3A runner-up with a 14-2 record) and Lafayette County (Class 4A runner-up with a 14-2 record) had this year.

On that note, here are some of the more memorable moments of the 2009 Northeast Mississippi high school football season:

- Offseason: Just as teams were beginning their summer workouts, tragedy struck two area football teams. In May, West Point's soon-to-be sophomore offensive lineman Tyler Wallace died in his sleep. In June, New Albany's main leader, linebacker/running back Marshuan Braxton, drowned during a missionary trip in Costa Rica.

Both teams dedicated their 2009 seasons to their lost teammates.

- Week 1: On Aug. 21, large school heavyweights West Point and Shannon battled it out. Shannon, ranked No. 2 by the Journal to start the season, defeated then-No. 1 West Point, 27-20, on its home field.

- Week 2: The Joe Bowl, an annual game between Tippah County high schools Falkner and Walnut, was canceled the day before the teams were to play after 10 cases of swine flu were confirmed at Falkner High. Falkner coach Nickey Nance said seven of his players had swine flu. Due to the flu outbreak and injuries from the previous week's game, the Eagles were down to 14 healthy bodies.

- Week 8: Here begins a series of postponements due to extremely wet and sloppy field and weather conditions as at least five games in the area were rescheduled.

- Week 10: Tupelo head football coach Eric Collins was suspended indefinitely by the Tupelo Public School District for an undisclosed reason. He would resign from his coaching duties on Nov. 2. In his sixth season at the helm, he would miss the Golden Wave's final three games.

- Week 11: After another series of area postponements, undefeated Shannon met undefeated Itawamba AHS on a sunny Saturday Halloween afternoon in Fulton. IAHS won 21-12 to capture the Division 1-4A title in the regular-season finale for both teams.

- Week 12: Booneville head coach Jim Drewry became the winningest high school coach in Mississippi with career victory No. 344 coming with a MHSAA Class 3A first-round playoff win over Marshall.

- Week 13: Playing in its first season in Class 3A, Belmont advanced to its first quarterfinals appearance in any classification after defeating Water Valley 27-20 in the second round.

- Week 16: West Point won its sixth state title, while Aberdeen and Lafayette County lost in their first championship game appearances.

"It's like the best moment of our... . I always had faith in us, but to come out state champs ... Whew!" said an excited Virges, before falling backwards to the Memorial Stadium grass and letting his teammates pile on.

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com

John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

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