November 30, 2017 11:00:47 PM
WEST POINT -- Casey Welch doesn't have a taste for Mexican food.
But you never know who you're going to bump into at dinner when you have a hankering for some chips and salsa. It had been a while since Welch, who was early in his career as an assistant football coach at West Point High School, had seen Brett Morgan. The two had been teammates on the Mississippi State football and they just so happened to be at Mi Hacienda Restaurant in Starkville.
Little did Welch know that Morgan was looking to get into high school coaching.
"I guess it is a little bit of fate," Welch said.
That chance encounter nearly nine years ago led Welch to talk to West Point High football coach Chris Chambless about the possibility of bringing Morgan on board. Welch said it took only two or three days after he talked to Chambless to learn in January 2009 that the Green Wave had a new addition to their coaching staff.
"There are not many high school personnel who get hired in January," Morgan said. "The Good Lord through coach Welch and coach Chambless worked out a spot for me."
More than eight years later, Welch and Morgan are still going strong in West Point. Now working together as co-offensive coaches, the teamwork Welch and Morgan share epitomizes the family atmosphere in a program that will try for its second-straight title -- and ninth overall -- at 7 p.m. Saturday when it takes on Hattiesburg (14-0) at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.
"If it wasn't for Casey Welch, our football team, our offense, our defense and special teams, our team wouldn't be where it is," Morgan said. "He is an unbelievable coach and he is even more of a special person. He is one of my best friends in life. If I am in a foxhole, I want Casey Welch in there with me. I trust him like a brother."
Brotherhood is a fitting word for the 2017 West Point team because players and coaches alike say this squad is a selfless group that doesn't care about statistics or who gets the headlines. The only thing they all say matters is the win, and so far, West Point (14-0) is perfect. One more victory would help the senior class make history and help the program earn its first 15-0 finish.
It's no wonder then that Morgan said West Point's No. 1 saying on offense is "11 brothers." It just as easily could be "11 hats to the ball" on defense. As much as it sounds like a cliche, that mentality is true because the players have said competition in practice drives them to be better.
Welch and Morgan said that same mentality exists on the coaching staff. Welch, who coaches the offensive line, said there is no ego and all of the coaches are on the same page. That includes the work he does with Morgan, who calls the plays. But Welch said Morgan isn't a domineering leader who says it is his way or the highway. In fact, Morgan credits wide receivers coach Jerry Fremin and running backs coach Alex Williams for being integral pieces of a puzzle that needs every coach and player to do his job.
"We all want what is best for the team," Morgan said. "I think it is easy. I give a lot of credit to (former West Point offensive coordinator) coach (Lee J.) Grisham and coach Chambless. We saw the way the offense was supposed to be run. It goes all the way back to coach (Dennis) Allen. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. What we have been doing at West Point for a lot of years has been really good."
Senior running backs Marcus Murphy (27 touchdowns) and Chris Calvert (23) lead a rushing attack that has gained 4,560 yards and scored 72 touchdowns. While Murphy, Calvert, Nate Montgomery, and senior wide receiver Jason Brownlee have accounted for plenty of highlights, Welch and Morgan point to the work ethic of the offensive line, the selflessness of the receivers and tight ends to block for their teammates. They say those things and the desire to be the best has motivated the Green Wave this season on their march to history.
Welch credits Chambless for setting the tone.
"I think that starts with coach Chambless," Welch said when asked about a green piece of wood with Family written in white on it. "Coach (Ricky) Melton is a lifelong Green Wave. I was coach Chambless' first hire when he got the job. Chris creates a family atmosphere where we're not in a hurry to leave here because it is such a great place to work."
That family atmosphere might have played a role in Morgan getting a job as a coach at West Point. Morgan, who went to Florence High School, was a member of the MSU football team for two years. He went on to do his student teaching at West Point and to his first job as a coach under Allen. He said it was great to catch up to Morgan that day in Mi Hacienda and that he never imagined they both would still be working together.
Morgan was a graduate assistant coach under MSU coach Sylvester Croom. He said he didn't know what he was going to do after Croom was fired. He said he was fortunate to start his high school coaching career at a place like West Point where brotherhood and family are more than just cliches coaches use in an attempt to build chemistry. At West Point, brotherhood, family, hard work, and sacrifice are a way of life.
Morgan said he doesn't know how or why those tenets have helped everyone get so close. He said a blue-collar approach on offense has suited his tastes and Welch's, which helps explain why their group performs at such a high level even when opponents know what is coming at them.
"It is all about winning," Morgan said. "If you have somebody prideful or selfish, then it wouldn't work. Coach Welch and I, that is not what we're about. I think that is the foundation of our relationship. It doesn't matter as long as it is best for the Green Wave."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.