October 4, 2017 9:57:34 AM
A year ago, West Point High School football team had a chance to have the best running back tandem in the state with juniors Marcus Murphy and Chris Calvert.
The duo had different running styles, as well as a passion for what they were doing and a desire to be team leaders.
When you consider West Point coach Chris Chambless would run the football 100 percent of the time if possible, the possibilities were limitless.
While it has taken more time than first thought, the West Point running game is churning out success at a near-perfect level.
Murphy and Calvert have combined for 1,273 yards and 19 touchdowns. As a team, West Point has rushed for 1,927 yards and 28 touchdowns. West Point's average of 321.2 yards rushing per game is a big reason why it is 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state by The Associated Press.
"It is no secret we like to run the football," Chambless said. "Football is about blocking and tackling. If we are able to block and we have running backs with good field awareness, we are going to be dangerous. You also need players who are not selfish. It is a combination that has worked well for us."
West Point won the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A State championship a year ago. It is a heavy favorite to repeat the title this season. However, last season's team had to take a different path to the title.
Calvert was hurt in the third game after a hard hit sent him to the sidelines. Doctors ruled he had concussion-like symptoms and held him out for nine games. He didn't return until the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
West Point still ran for 3,646 yards and 47 touchdowns. That is an average of 243.1 yards per game.
"It was the longest football season of my life," Calvert said. "A lot of times you want to give up. The encouragement of my teammates is what kept me going. They told me they needed me out there. They kept my head up. What was frustrating about a concussion is you feel fine.
"Each week you feel like you will be back on the field. The doctors did the right thing and waited. It was very frustrating."
Calvert announced his return with authority. He scored three touchdowns in a 41-0 victory against Oxford in the second round of the playoffs. After he took that first hit, it was like business as usual.
"Such a great feeling to be out there helping your teammates win," Calvert said. "To be able to score in the (state) championship game is something I will always remember."
Murphy had three touchdowns and Calvert added another in West Point's 29-8 victory against Laurel in the state title game. With almost everybody back from that team, winning another state championship became the only goal.
"We are having fun this year," Murphy said. "(Calvert and I) are having that type of year we thought we could have together last year. When you can attack a team a number of different ways it makes you hard to defend."
The 6-foot-1, 197-pound Murphy has shifted back to quarterback, where he played as a sophomore. West Point still prefers not to throw the ball. However, Murphy does enough to help keep other teams' defenses honest.
West Point is averaging 130.3 yards passing this season, while the number was 102.1 a year ago with then-senior Clayton Knight at quarterback.
Murphy is one of the front-runners for state player of the year honors. His senior college future is set with a verbal commitment to Mississippi State that he is expected to confirm on signing day. At MSU, Murphy is expected to play on defense. However, there is enough being put on video this season to show he would be a great option on offense.
That now leaves the recruiting focus to fall on Calvert.
The 5-9, 177-pound Calvert is considered by many to be undervalued. A lot of players build the crucial part of their recruiting resume during their junior years. This season is a chance to make up for lost time.
"The biggest thing is winning another championship," Calvert said. "Everybody wants to play college ball. Right now, it is about putting the team first and making sure we get to win another title. You put a lot of faith in your coaches. You know when it is time they are going to be in your corner and make sure you are provided for."
West Point needs five more wins to complete a perfect regular season schedule.
Few teams are expected to be a threat on the way to Oxford for a chance to repeat as state champions.
West Point looks to be motivated even though it has won 20 of its last 21 games and rarely has been challenged. Routine victories that could end 21-0 or 28-0 have quickly become 56-0.
No one is taken anything for granted, especially Calvert. He plans to be in uniform every game and to take as many handoffs as possible.
"You forget how much fun football can be," Calvert said. "I'm grateful to be in this situation. No looking back now."
Scott Walters is a sports writer for The Dispatch. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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