West Point senior Marcus Murphy (2), a Mississippi State commitment, scored four touchdowns in Saturday’s 41-15 win over Hattiesburg. Photo by: Stan Beall/Special to The Dispatch
December 2, 2017 11:23:30 PM
OXFORD -- Marcus Murphy, Chris Calvert, and the West Point High School football team capped a history-making season in fitting fashion Saturday night.
Just as they have done all of their careers, Murphy and Calvert like they weren't going to be denied ran behind a dominating offensive line on a 13-play, 78-yard drive that ate up 7 minutes, 2 seconds in the fourth quarter to put the finishing touches on a 41-15 victory against Hattiesburg in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A State title game at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
The championship was the second in a row for West Point, and ninth overall. It also marked the first time in program history a West Point football team has gone 15-0. Last season, West Point finished 14-1.
"It is unquestioned now," Murphy said when asked what it feels like to be a part of the best team in West Point football history. "You can't question our loyalty, our hard work, and our dedication. We played as a whole, and the stats prove it all. We went 15-0 and we made history."
Murphy, who also was named Class 5A Mr. Football by the Mississippi Association of Coaches earlier in the week, had 23 carries for 226 yards and four touchdowns to earn his second-straight MVP honor in a title game. Calvert had 19 carries for 103 yards and two scores to help the Green Wave pile up 354 yards rushing on 50 carries.
"I played my heart out," Calvert said. "Me, my teammates, all of us played our hearts out. We couldn't have done without the grace of God."
The offensive line of KeAris Smith, Jameek Price, Daveion Reives, Zameek Price, and Ezekia Head set the tone up front for West Point.
"They did a job that they always do," Calvert said. "Our offensive line was very undersized, but they have the heart of a lion. They have no quit in them at all."
If the running of Murphy and Calvert helped seal the deal on the 13-play drive, which included 12 runs (three by Murphy and six by Calvert), Murphy helped put the game away with a signature play in the third quarter. West Point was leading 21-7 with third-and-6 from the Hattiesburg 49. Murphy rolled to his right and found Jason Brownlee for a 12-yard gain. Brownlee did a stutter step to avoid a tackler to give West Point a first down.
"That comes from coach (Brett) Morgan teaching me to play quarterback," Murphy said. "He played quarterback in college (at Mississippi State), so I learned from him. I took that in and tried to make myself better and be a better passer so we could be a 50-50 offense. We showed that tonight."
Morgan said he would have called that play last season, when Murphy led the Green Wave to their first title since 2010. He said Murphy's maturation as a quarterback speaks volumes because he carries the football like a running back and is still able to run the offense.
"He carries it more than anybody," Morgan said. "Then he has turn around and call the plays, think about the passing game, execute the passing game, execute and run the offense and be the coach on the field. That is the most unbelievable thing he does.
"Everybody understands he is a great runner, but his football knowledge and the grasp he has of the offense to do all of that, people don't understand. Running quarterbacks, you don't have a respect for them unless you have played the position and know what it is like."
One play later -- with West Point Chris Chambless saying, "Go, go, go" under his breath on the sideline -- Murphy burst up the middle and raced 37 yards for a back-breaking score.
Chambless said Murphy, Calvert, and the rest of a senior class that became the first to go 15-0 in a season always will be remembered. He said Murphy helped set the tone on the field, but he said the Mississippi State commitment also has been a special individual off the field.
"He is a leader, a good person," Chambless said. "What makes Marcus Murphy is the person he is and the person he makes everybody else be. He is good-hearted, kind, and he has leadership ability that is out of this world. People are attracted to him. People listen to him. I know I do. He just has a way of making everybody feel like winners when you're around him."
Murphy said he didn't do anything differently in his final game for the Green Wave. Still, it looked like the senior had a little extra pep in his step so he could help the teammates make history.
Chambless said playing on a big stage on a college campus for a chance to make history brought a little bit more out of all of his players.
"I see it every day in practice (from Murphy)," Chambless said. "I am glad I had a rule lately in practice that we don't hit him. Our defense may lose a little confidence because he is hard to tackle. He and Chris Calvert are hard to tackle."
After the game, Calvert was one of many West Point players who were hit by the emotions of the moment in their final game in Green Wave jerseys.
"I don't want to leave. I don't want to graduate," Calvert said. "I might not take (the jersey) off.
"It feels unreal. I am speechless. I have nothing to say. This was a great season. I enjoyed it. This was one of my best seasons ever."
Morgan echoed Chambless when he said Murphy and Calvert ran as hard as they did Saturday night every day in practice. He was quick to credit the other nine players on the field for the Green Wave. Morgan said that was a key to the team's success because no one cared who got the accolades as long as the team won.
Murphy agreed and said the competition in practice brought out the best in everyone and set the stage for a historical final night wearing the West Point colors.
"It is motivation between each other," Murphy said. "We push each other every day -- in the weight room, on the field, off the field. It showed up on the field."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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