August 14, 2018 7:11:28 PM
The numbers were staggering.
Marcus Murphy and Chris Calvert completed their playing careers at West Point High School by combining to rush for 3,301 yards and 56 touchdowns.
The duo helped lead the Green Wave to a second straight Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A state championship.
Veteran coach Chris Chamblee can use that squad as the blueprint for how he likes to win a championship.
"There is no secret that we want to to run the football," Chris Chambless said. "Our job is to get the big linemen to block and for the running backs to hit the hole with authority. There is little doubt that we were a little spoiled the last couple of years. However, it was a vintage West Point team. When you can run the ball, everything else works better on offense."
The quest to replace that yardage will be one of the challenges as West Point tries for a third straight state championship.
The first answers will be collected Thursday when West Point plays Columbus in at 7 p.m. start for the season opener at Falcon Field.
Even the third- and fourth-best rushers on last season's squad are gone.
Junior Brandon Harris leads the returning backfield mates after collecting 214 yards on 35 tries last season.
"There is a lot of competition between the backs at practice," Harris said. "I think that has a chance to make us a better team. Last year, we got to learn from Marcus and Chris. They were both great backs. You could learn how to practice from them. You could learn how to train from them. They really set a great standard for us."
Senior Jake Chambless is expected to shift into the starting quarterback role after splitting those duties with Muprhy a year ago. The Green Wave will also have to replace the bulk of the receiving yards from last season, as well.
West Point prefers to run the ball but the dymanic play-making abilty of Murphy and quick-scoring ability set the team up to pass more than usual.
Chambless did throw for 679 yards and seven touchdowns. Seventy-three of the team's 105 receptions did graduate.
"The coaches have been working us hard in practice," said West Point junior Jimothy Mays, who also topped the 200-yard rushing club last season. "The biggest thing about our program is the standard of excellence starts on the practice field. As an offense, we just have to keep improving. We are going to be a lot better later in the season, than we are now. Coaches just want our best. They want us to work hard and compete in practice."
The West Point defense returns six starters. That unit will be charged with helping to get the season off on the right track. A year ago, West Point rolled to a 42-14 win over Columbus in the season opener at Hamblin Stadium.
"The guys (on defense) know we have some questions to get answered on offense," Chris Chambless said. "The biggest challenge right now is depth. A year ago, we were pretty comfotable with our two-deep at every position on the field. This year, we got a good grasp of the starters. Our first 11 (on both offense and defense) will be able to compete with anyone."
Seniors Kameron Martin and Jayhun Eggerson will also figure prominently in the running game, as well as junior Dantariyus Cannon.
West Point rode a sturdy running game to a 27-13 win over North Panola Friday at the New Hope Jamboree.
That running game now puts up numbers for real starting Thursday night.
Even when Aeris Williams was performing workhorse back duties for the Green Wave, there were plenty of carries to go around for other guys.
"I am excited because everyone on this team can carry the workload," Mays said. "Each back has something different they can do to help the team. We are all working on our blocking and our technique. There are a lot of ways to help the team win. Everybody is ready to get started so we can see what this team looks like."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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