When the sting of losing in the semifinals of the playoffs subsides, the football teams from West Lowndes, Starkville and Caledonia will be able to point to some solid accomplishments from the 2021 season.
For Starkville, winning two playoff games gives them an overall playoff record of 56-27, including 8-4 under coach Chris Jones. The Yellow Jackets’ 12 wins marks the eighth time in 11 seasons they have reached double digits. It was also their 80th winning season and 31st season of at least 10 victories in 103 seasons of football.
Starkville’s region title was the school’s 18th and ninth since 2000. The Jackets played at least three playoff games for the 17th time since the format began in 1981, and their two home playoff victories give them an all-time record of 34-9 in postseason games in Starkville.
West Lowndes doesn’t quite have that much football history, but what the Panthers did this year will be remembered as well. They won a playoff game for the first time since 2015 and won two in a season for only the second time and first since 1992.
West Lowndes had lost its first-round playoff game in seven of their past eight postseason trips, but the 40-6 romp over Richton in the opener this year was their biggest playoff win since a 48-0 thrashing of O’Bannon in 1992. The 82 points the Panthers scored this postseason is a school record, surpassing the 78 scored by that 1992 team.
The Panthers stormed through their 1A-3 schedule with a perfect 8-0 record for their fourth region title and first since 1992, and only two West Lowndes teams have won more games than the nine the Panthers won this season.
Caledonia’s history-making season has been well-chronicled. The Cavaliers had not won a playoff game in their history until this year, when they won three. Caledonia had not won four district games in a season since 1989, when it was a Class 2A school, and the 11 wins is a school record; the old record was just seven, recorded three times. And at 22-22, Michael Kelly is the first Caledonia coach to last more than one season with a non-losing record since 1970.
— Tom Rysinski
West Point hoping for ‘revenge’
West Point coach Chris Chambless knows what went wrong in last year’s MHSAA Class 5A championship game against West Jones.
“We just didn’t seem to get it done in key spots during the game,” Chambless said.
The Green Wave turned the ball over on fourth-and-7 at the Mustangs’ 42-yard line with 1:01 to go, sealing a 33-27 loss that kept West Point from a record-tying fifth straight title.
Now, Chambless’ team will go back to Hattiesburg to face the team West Point beat for its fourth consecutive crown. Picayune (13-1) will present a challenge for the Green Wave.
“That’s one thing I know: It’s going to be a smash-mouth, physical football game,” Chambless said.
Thanks to Friday’s 20-14 win over Neshoba Central, West Point can surpass South Panola among Mississippi public schools with its 12th state title if the Green Wave beat the Maroon Tide.
And make no mistake: It’s a win West Point badly wants with last year’s loss still fresh on its mind.
“We’re looking for some revenge,” wide receiver Shawn Melton said.
— Theo DeRosa