West Point’s Jason Brownlee makes a circus catch, despite Hattiesburg defender Dennis Payton’s efforts.

OXFORD – They’ll never play, but I’d pay NFL prices to see it: Class 5A champion West Point, 15-0 and never seriously challenged, vs. Class 6A kingpin Pearl, which finished 16-0 against one of the most difficult schedules imaginable.

One night after Pearl knocked off Starkville 21-17, West Point ransacked previously unbeaten Hattiesburg 41-15. Much of the press box chatter during the second half of West Point’s one-sided, championship victory was about what would happen if Pearl and West Point played a Mississippi Super Bowl.

Oh, what a game it would be. West Point smashes everyone it plays. Pearl does whatever it takes to win. Both are explosive. Both play swarming defense.

Rick Cleveland

It would be much fun to watch and I’d probably make the 5A champs a three-point favorite. Nobody has come within 19 points of West Point, who whipped 15 opponents by an average of 35 points a game.

Who you got: The immovable object? The unstoppable force? The teams just played one common foe. West Point drubbed Starkville 28-3 early in the season. Pearl beat Starkville 21-17 Friday night. Pearl played a much more difficult schedule, but West Point clobbered all comers.

It would be special.

But maybe this is the way it should be. Both teams finish unbeaten and with a gold championship football in their trophy cases. They started way back in August and ended in December. Enough is enough.


“We’d play ’em,” said West Point running back Marcus Murphy, the Mississippi State commit who rambled for 226 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries. “We’d do the same way we’ve been doing against everybody we’ve played all season. This team would play anybody.”

West Point coach Chris Chambless, with 4-year-old daughter Loxley, talks to reporters post-game.

Asked about the matchup that will never happen, West Point coach Chis Chambless, whose team has won two straight state championships, smiled and said, “Whoa, let’s let this one sink in first. I want to enjoy this.

“I’ll say this: Coach (John) Perry has done a tremendous job at Pearl. What they did against that schedule they played is special. Let’s leave it at that. We’re both undefeated and we’ve both got championship trophies to take home. That’s good enough for me.”

It’ll have to be good enough for everybody.

Hattiesburg’s season ended one victory short of a state football crown the Tigers have never won. They have been to the state championship five times, but have smoked no cigars.

But there was one special moment in Saturday night’s defeat.

The Tigers scored their first touchdown with 9:13 left in the second quarter. Out onto the field trotted placekicker Kendyl Terrell. She is a 10th grader, who was playing just two days after the death of her father, former Southern Miss football star Clemon Terrell. “Clem,” as friends called him, was the long time Hattiesburg director of parks and recreation, a fine guy. Friendly. Solid. Friends say he was really excited about watching his daughter kick in a state championship game.

Kendyl Terrell can smile because of her supportive teammates.

Kendyl played Saturday night because she felt that was what her father would want her to do.

“My teammates have been a comfort to me and helped me with this,” she said afterward. “Hattiesburg High has been great for me, has changed me as a person. My Hattiesburg High teammates are why I can have a smile on my face right now.”

So, Kendyl, listed at 6 feet and 170 pounds and looking in the face much like her father, lined up for her soccer-style kick and booted it right through the middle of the uprights. It is believed to be the first point ever scored by a female in a Mississippi state championship game.

Coaches, managers, and training staff took turns hugging her as she came off the field smiling broadly. It was about much more than the kick.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.