September 24, 2017 12:01:41 AM
BY WILL NATIONS
Special to the Dispatch
OXFORD - West Point's Jason Brownlee caught his breath on the sideline.
The two-way player had a big gold chain wrapped around his neck and a shiny wrestling belt on his shoulder during the first quarter of Friday night's game.
These were medallions awarded for big plays on the field by the West Point High football team's coaching staff. His were well deserved. He earned all the bling, all the props for a huge performance.
Brownlee's seven catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns - along with an interception - paced the Green Wave to a 49-14 win over the Lafayette County Commodores in both team's Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Region 1-5A opener.
"I am here to do whatever the team needs of me," Brownlee said. "I dedicated myself to the team
Brownlee's game-changing highlight occurred on Lafayette's third possession of the game. Before the possession could get past the first play, Brownlee was not fooled by a halfback pass and caged an interception at the West Point 40-yard line. Then, on the very next play, Brownlee outplayed his defender, outreached him for the pass, and raced the rest of the way to the end zone. His first score of the game - within 10 seconds of his pick - gave the Wave a 14-point cushion with one minute, 53 seconds left in the first.
"It felt good to be to get the championship belt (for turnovers) and necklace in two plays," said Brownlee. "Before those two plays, we felt it was going to be a closer game. We stayed within the game and executed."
Brownlee added his second touchdown with another electric play during the third. On third-and-12, Marcus Murphy laid his pass long toward the corner of the end zone. Brownlee, in one-on-one coverage, stretched his 6-foot-3 frame and dove for the football. He caught it for a 34-yard touchdown.
"I have been waiting for a game like this one tonight," Brownlee said. "West Point showed tonight, we don't have to run the ball. We can get the ball in the air some, too. We have too many weapons."
In a game where West Point (5-0; 1-0 Region 1-5A) amassed 600 yards of total offense, averaging 9.6 yards per offensive snap, Marcus Murphy contributed four scores, three passing and one rushing, and Chris Calvert added two rushing touchdowns, as well. Calvert led the rushing category with 14 carries for 157 yards, and Murphy tallied 13 touches for 127 on the ground.
"We still have some areas we, as a team, need to clean up, but we really liked to see the balanced attack offensively," West Point Head Coach Chris Chambless said. "Jason Brownlee is a big weapon that has to be accounted for, and, of course, Marcus (Murphy) and Chris (Calvert) are always threats to score."
Outside of an early deficit, West Point's defense continued to play stout. The unit contained the Commodores' attack to three first downs and kept Lafayette to only four plays that tallied 10 yards or more.
"We played timid on that first possession and that had to change," Brent Cunningham said. "We played fast and kept our cool once we got down. We cranked it up the rest of the night."
Lafayette (0-5; 0-1 Region 1-5A), the defending MHSAA Class-4A state champions, surprised the defending MHSAA Class-5A champions in the opening 93 seconds of the contest. On the third play of the game, Jamarcus Quarles broke several tackles and scooted down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. The Commodores did little for the remainder of the game.
"(West Point) has a great football team," Lafayette head coach Michael Fair said of West Point. "They do a great job. Every now and then you see a group of talented guys come through all in one year kind of like they do and they have a great senior class ... I am glad this one is behind us."
West Point answered quickly on its next two possessions. Calvert capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown carry. Four minutes later, Murphy connected with Jaquerius Crawford on a 21-yard strike. The touchdown pass secured the lead for good.
After Randy Anderson's 34-yard touchdown pass to Quarles, Murphy stretched the lead back to 14 points. The senior carried the football 55 yards on third play of the ensuing drive.
Right before halftime, Calvert added an electric 72-yard carry that set up the Wave inside Lafayette's territory. He capped the series five plays later with a four-yard touchdown run.
West Point continues Region 1-5A action against the Center Hill Mustangs Friday night. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. at McCallister Field in West Point.
1. Saban casts shadow over SEC Media Days COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Malzahn confident about Auburn's chances in 2018 COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Former players praise MSU's hiring of Foxhall COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Muschamp disagrees football is 'under attack' COLLEGE SPORTS
5. MSU picked third in SEC West COLLEGE SPORTS