West Point High School senior quarterback Marcus Murphy breaks off another big run against Tupelo on Saturday night at the New Hope Jamboree at Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch Buy this photo.
August 17, 2017 10:46:20 AM
WEST POINT -- Antrayvious Brownlee dreamed of the feeling ever since seventh grade.
Brownlee imagined the cold feeling on the ring finger of his left hand. He contemplated the designs he and his teammates would put on their state championship rings. With each passing year, though, the wait grew longer and longer and longer.
Last season, Brownlee and his West Point High School football teammates ended their wait with a 29-8 victory against Laurel in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A State title game at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium.
The championship ended a six-year drought for the Green Wave and earned them the program's eighth state title. It also gave the players a chance to earn some bling for their efforts.
"We have been working hard since the seventh grade to get a ring," Brownlee said. "When you finally get it, you know you have it, but at the same time you're like, 'This ain't real.' Then it hits you when you look at it. You show everybody we did it as a team."
West Point will begin its march to another title at 7 tonight when it plays host to Columbus in the season opener for both teams.
For West Point, which is ranked No. 2 in The Clarion-Ledger's Super 10, a ranking of the state's top teams regardless of class or association, it is time to stop talking about all of the expectations and to prove it is ready to take care of business.
West Point High football coach Chris Chambless said there are some similarities between 2010 and this season. He said not many people believed the Green Wave could repeat in 2010. Chambless said the team realized it could win another championship once it started to roll. West Point won its final 12 games of the season following a 21-20 loss to Starkville in its third game.
That isn't the case this year, as West Point is regarded as a favorite to get back to Oxford and play for another championship. Chambless said no one on his coaching staff or in his locker room is going to allow the hype to become a distraction.
"I don't ever talk about rankings," Chambless said. "The humble side of us is how we finish. It is not where we are now, it is where we end up. It is in the back of everybody's head, I know, but we try to stay humble and know we can control our destiny by the way we play."
The return of senior Marcus Murphy, who has committed to play football at Mississippi State, a healthy senior Chris Calvert at running back, a dynamic wide receiver in Jason Brownlee, and an experienced defense, led in part by senior safety Antrayvious Brownlee, provides plenty of ammunition for those who believe the Green Wave will roll through the North in Class 5A and wind up in Oxford playing for a state title.
"Staying (at the top of the mountain) is our goal," Chambless said. "The players will tell you, it is all about practice and how you prepare. We're not just going to show up and win. No matter how good you are you just can't do it. You have to prepare and do the little things right.
"Guys have been focused on knowing what we can do. You like to get lucky here and there, but we certainly have a shot at (another state championship)."
Antrayvious Brownlee and Murphy agree there is a pretty big bull's eye on West Point High's back. In a reconfigured Class 5A, Region 1 with Center Hill, Grenada, Lafayette, which has moved up from Class 4A, Lake Cormorant, Lewisburg, Olive Branch, and Saltillo, West Point will have a few new kids on the block who will look to challenge its dominance. The players welcome the opportunities to prove themselves.
"It is a challenge to live up to it and it makes you play hard," Brownlee said. "It makes you want to do better and to go hard in every rep at practice."
Brownlee said he wears his state title ring a lot, including to school. The ring has his name, number, and position. When asked how he thinks it would feel to wear two rings, he said, "It would feel great." He said he likely would wear a second ring on the ring finger on his right hand.
Don't think, though, that Brownlee or Murphy will be blinded by the bling or be satisfied by what they accomplished in 2016.
"We aren't going to be cocky," Brownlee said. "We're going to have respect for the ring.
"We just want to win and show everybody we can win. We don't get into our fame and stuff. We let outside people deal with that stuff. We just have one goal: going back to state."
That message has reverberated throughout the locker room every day since last December. Brownlee said the Green Wave enjoyed their title at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium. They are prepared to start another journey and realize the ultimate prize.
For Murphy, that meant wearing his ring on the first day of school and then putting it away at his house for safe keeping because there is work to be done. He said the challenge for the Green Wave will be to remain mentally strong and not to allow the hype to distract them.
"It sounded good (talking about winning a state title in 2016), and when we actually won it didn't seem real because the season went by pretty fast," Murphy said. "We worked non-stop for it and that is a big goal to accomplish. Now we have gotten past that and are going to work to get another one. We're not going to be complacent with the way we work. We know we have to get better and try to get another one."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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