WEST POINT — There’s not much that head football coach Chris Chambless hasn’t accomplished at West Point High School.
The veteran coach, who took over for former boss Dennis Allen prior to the 2006 season, has won 89 games and a pair of state championships during his tenure at West Point, making him one of the state’s most successful coaches at one of its top programs.
He will get his chance at another accomplishment – beating Class 6A power South Panola – tonight.
The Green Wave, third in the state with seven state titles in the playoff era, haven’t beaten the Tigers since the series was renewed in 2011. And while that’s both acceptable and not surprising since South Panola has won 10 state championships and is generally regarded as the state’s premier program, that doesn’t stop Chambless from taking his shots.
After winning his second state title in 2010, Chambless decided fans and player affiliated with WPHS deserved to see – and play – the state’s best, hence the annual series that began three years ago.
The Tigers have won all three meetings – 37-17 in 2011, 12-10 in 2012 and 55-33 last year.
“These are two of the best programs you will find anywhere,” said Chambless, whose Green Wave opened the 2014 season with a 21-16 home win over Grenada last Friday. “They are a big-time program, a first-class organization. One thing we always want to do here at West Point is judge ourselves against the toughest competition we can find.”
Chambless has found it. South Panola enters tonight’s showdown, which is set for 7 p.m. at West Point’s McAllister Field, as the No. 1 team in the Associated Press statewide Class 6A poll. It’s a familiar spot for head coach Lance Pogue and the Tigers, who last won the state championship in 2012.
The Tigers opened the season with a 62-27 win over Memphis-White Station a week ago, displaying an explosiveness that resulted in 308 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
For Chambless, harnessing South Panola’s ground game will be key for a West Point defense looking to improve on a 55-point showing in last year’s meeting.
“They’re good, a lot of athletes,” said Chambless of South Panola. “They always have athletes but they’re so well-coached it’s really hard to slow them down. We just have to be physical up front.”
South Panola used three ballcarriers in last week’s 62-27 over White Station with all three reaching at least 94 yards. Senior Darrell Henderson, the engine that makes the South Panola offense go, registered 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns while junior Donald Twilley rushed for 102 yards and a score on just four carries. Junior Oluwain Hoskins added 125 yards and two scores on 17 carries.
But unlike some previous South Panola teams, the 2014 version also brings a passing threat to tonight’s game. Junior quarterback Tyler Pogue, son of the head coach, completed nine passes for 139 yards and three scores in the opening week.
“That’s what makes them tough to defend this year,” said Chambless. “You think you can just focus on their running backs, but if you do that, that quarterback and those receivers will have a field day. They are very balanced.”
West Point’s offense flashed balanced of its own in the five-point win over Grenada, as senior QB Dason Thomas passed for 123 yards and rushed for 69 more while scoring twice.
“This is always a big game,” said Thomas of the meeting with South Panola. “We know they are going to be physical, but that’s how we want to play, too. We are looking forward to it.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Walker on Twitter @BWonStateBeat