By Matthew Stevens, [email protected]
August 19, 2011 8:33:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- For at least one night this weekend, a pair of Mississippi State players will turn in their maroon for the green of their high school.
West Point High alumni Curtis Virges and Michael Carr said this week they intend to be on the sidelines at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for matchup between No. 1 South Panola and No. 3 West Point at Hamblin Stadium.
The message from Carr, a former Dispatch Player of the Year recipient, was loud and clear.
"Go Wave," the first words out of Carr''s mouth when asked about the matchup. "It''s going to be a great game, and I believe my guys can win."
South Panola will enter the matchup as the top-ranked team in The Clarion-Ledger''s Super 10 preseason poll. The Tigers have won back-to-back Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A titles to give them a state record nine championships in football. The success has earned the school the nickname the University of South Panola.
South Panola also held the third longest winning streak in high school football history -- 89 -- from 2003 to 2008. Meridian defeated South Panola in the Class 5A championship to end that run.
In June, MaxPreps published a list of the state''s top football dynasties in the past five seasons. South Panola, which went 15-0 last season and is 58-2 in that stretch, was ranked No. 1.
West Point, which has won the past two Class 5A state, was No. 4 on MaxPreps'' list with a 47-7 record in the past five years. It defeated Brookhaven last season for its seventh crown. West Point and Louisville area tied for the second most titles in state history.
South Panola, the No. 8 ranked team in the country according to Rivals.com and the top ranked team in Mississippi, has won 29 games in a row against teams from the state. It hasn''t lost a game to a team from Mississippi since the Class 5A state championship on Dec. 5, 2008, when a MSU backup quarterback Tyler Russell led Meridian to a 26-20 victory.
"South Panola is a great team, but in my eyes, of course, I''m Green Wave all the time, and people forget how dominant my guys have been over there for the last couple of years," Carr said. "It would be big time for the community to win this game and show we''re all heart, mind, body, and soul at West Point."
MSU has one player from South Panola High: freshman defensive back Kendrick Market, but due to coach Dan Mullen''s policy on incoming freshmen being off limits in the preseason, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound defensive back was unavailable for comment.
South Panola has had nine Division I signees in the past three years. Two players from this season''s team -- 270-pound defensive tackle Issac Gross and three-star defensive end Temario Strong -- have made verbal commitments to play football at the University of Mississippi.
Virges, who says he has been on the sidelines for nearly every West Point home game since the former three-star recruit signed with MSU, agrees the game will be the premier non-region matchup in the state this season and possibly the biggest game in the history of the program he helped put back on the map.
"Regardless of what happens, it''s a major night for our school and our football program," Virges said. "I think we will win big because the talent is there at West Point."
Virges should know. His little brother, Mario, will get several touches as the Green Wave''s starting tailback. The 195-pounder will pair with Tez Lane in the backfield and work to put up similar numbers to the 1,416 yards and 22 touchdowns scored by Lakenderic Thomas last season.
"I''m ready to see him play because he ain''t my size or nothing, but he plays like I do with the aggression of a defensive lineman," Virges said. "He''s strong, and they say he can run everybody over."
Carr, who was named to the Mississippi Association of Coaches'' All-State first team as a senior, knows how to make big plays in an important game. He had a 64-yard reception and a 78-yard kickoff return for touchdowns in West Point''s 35-14 state title win against Wayne County in 2009
"We have a lot of guys that love to play ball, and there''s a lot of talent in that area people need to be recruiting," Carr said. "If those guys can pull off that victory, they will be able to raise the level and get more eyes on what''s going on in that program. There''s a lot of guys that can play ball and should be recruited in that school."
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