December 2, 2009 8:35:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
JACKSON -- As a Junior, it was natural for Curtis Virges'' mother to pick out the nickname "Jun Jun" for her son.
Opponents on the football field likely have a different set of names they call the West Point High School senior defensive lineman.
"The Beast" is one that comes to mind, especially after Virges stood Monday at the front of the conference room in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and towered over teammate and senior running back Xavier Hogan.
Virges usually has that kind of dominating presence on the football field, too.
Virges and the rest of the Green Wave (13-1) will look to complete their mission at 7 p.m. Saturday when they take on Wayne County (11-3) for the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state title.
The game is a rematch of the 2005 title game, which West Point won 17-15 for its fifth state championship.
The trip to Jackson means a lot to Virges, a Mississippi State commitment, who was a key contributor last season on a team that lost to Lafayette in the first round of the Class 4A North Half State playoffs.
This season, Virges, a 6-foot-3, 280-pounder has led a defensive line that has controlled the line of scrimmage. Just like its counterparts on the offensive line, Virges said the Green Wave take pride in being able to win the battles in the trenches.
"We come out every ay and work together and communicate and have that bond," said Virges, who leads the team with 13 sacks and is tied for second with 73 overall tackles. He said the work that the defense does against West Point''s first-team offense has helped everyone improve.
"If I can beat them I feel I can beat anyone," Virges said. "They are the best offensive linemen in the state. They work together and communicate very well."
Virges said his ability to use his hands to move off blocks allows him to exploit his strength to be a force on the defensive line. He said his experience on the West Point High boys basketball team the past two seasons has helped him use his hands and his feet better to maneuver along the line and be harder to block.
"I think I have played fairly well this season," Virges said. "I take pride in being able to get the big plays that we need."
West Point High coach Chris Chambless said Virges has provided solid leadership. He said Virges'' desire to win has fueled his success and the defense this season.
"If you put your mind to it like he does, you can usually get the job done," Chambless said. "He practices hard, plays hard, and works hard. That is what makes him special."
Chambless said has untapped potential if he continues to work hard and stays humble.
Hogan, who said he isn''t afraid to run at his hulking defensive lineman in practice, agrees and said he doesn''t think he has ever seen anyone who is as strong as Virges.
After lavishing his teammate with compliments, though, Hogan insisted he won''t shy away from Virges'' side of the field if his number is called on a running play.
"He thinks he is too big for me, but I don''t run from him," Hogan said. "If he is there, he is there and I will try to get past him. If I can get past him, I can get past anybody.
"I have never seen someone who can run that fast and who is that big. It is hard to block him because he is so quick and strong and if you get your hands on him he will just blow you off and he can avoid you. He is like a triple threat."
Now there''s another nickname for Virges that just might be as appropriate as "The Beast."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.