West Point dominates Hattiesburg to finish 15-0

West Point quarterback Marcus Murphy finished with over 300 total yards on the night against Hattiesburg
Staff Writer

West Point used three interceptions to fuel their offense on Saturday night’s 41-15 win over Hattiesburg in the Class 5A state championship.

Many times when the Tigers would piece together impressive drives, the Green Wave would force them into throwing an interception or a turnover-on-downs.

“We don’t like to bend, but we’re going to play every down like it's the last down we’ve got,” West Point head coach Chris Chambless said. “That’s just a testament to our defensive players and our coaches. My coaches have made it very easy on me.”

The West Point coaching staff implement what they call a “Get the Ball” belt. Whenever a player gets a turnover on defense, they are awarded the belt until another player gets a turnover. At times, the belt was passed around like a hot potato on Saturday night.

The Green Wave came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. West Point opened the game by putting together a 10-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in a 15-yard touchdown run by Marcus Murphy.

Hattiesburg moved the ball well on both first quarter drives, but Jarod Conner threw interceptions deep in West Point territory on both possessions.

The first interception, by Xavier Fair, was followed with a 54-yard Murphy touchdown run that gave the Green Wave a 14-0 lead with 2:31 left in the first quarter. Tyler Rupert would come up with an interception on the next Hattiesburg drive and return it to the Tigers’ 23-yard line. West Point would come up empty on the field position, however, as they turned the ball over on downs.

Hattiesburg would put together a solid drive that did not end in an interception on the next drive, as Jarod Conner hit Raheem Willis for 44 yards to the Green Wave 3-yard line. Conner would punch it in for a 2-yard touchdown three plays later to cut the West Point lead to 14-7.

West Point got the ball back at their own 13 with 4:34 left and proceeded to move the ball down the field, aided by a 24-yard pass from Murphy to Jason Brownlee. An 11-yard Murphy run - where he carried Tiger defenders for nearly 10 yards - would help set up a 4-yard Chris Calvert touchdown run, giving the Green Wave a 21-7 lead at the half.

The Tigers opened the second half with what looked to be a promising drive, but it ended with a turnover on downs at the West Point 47-yard line. The Green Wave wasted no time in capitalizing on the turnover, as Murphy left defenders in the dust on a 37-yard touchdown run to put West Point ahead 28-7 with 7:34 left in the third.

The Green Wave forced Hattiesburg into a three-and-out and punt on their next possession. The route was on from that point, as Murphy found the end zone for the fourth time on a 16-yard score, giving West Point a 34-7 lead after three quarters.

The Tigers would mount a nice drive on the next possession, as Conner found Dandre Humbles for a 40-yard gain. Tray Brownlee forced Humbles to fumble on the play, but he avoided disaster by recovering his fumble and setting Hattiesburg up in good field position.

Conner would then toss his third interception, squandering yet another scoring opportunity. Brentt Cunningham was the recipient of the interception at the West Point 33 yard-line. The Green Wave would them use a 13-play, 78-yard drive to bleed seven minutes off the clock, capitalizing on the turnover when Calvert ran for a 12-yard touchdown with 4:47 remaining in the game.

Hattiesburg would score on a 6-yard run by Conner with 54 seconds left, making the final score 41-15.

Murphy finished the night with 226 yards and four touchdowns on 23 rushing attempts, while throwing for 81 yards on 7-of-9 attempts. Murphy was awarded the Class 5A state championship’s player-of-the-game for the second consecutive year.

“It feels great (winning back-to-back player-of-the-game awards), but that comes from hard work and dedication to this team as a whole,” Murphy said. “These guys push me to be better and I push them to be better.”

Chambless said while Murphy is an otherworldly talent on the gridiron, the senior is even more special off the field.

“He’s not only been a great player, but a great leader, a good person,” Chambless said. “What makes Marcus Murphy is the person he is and the person that he makes everyone else be. He’s good-hearted, kind, and his leadership abilities are out of this world. He just has a way of making everybody feel like winners when you’re on his side.”

Calvert ran 19 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns and Jason Brownlee caught three passes for 39 yards. Conner led Hattiesburg with 248 yards on 16-of-30 passing and three interceptions with no touchdowns. Conner scored the Tigers only two touchdowns on 15 carries for 26 yards.

Defensively, Cunningham led the Green Wave with eight tackles, while Tray Brownlee, Terence Cherry, and Xavier Fair each finished with five tackles. Cunningham, Fair, and Rupert each had one interception apiece.

West Point finishes 15-0, setting a record for most wins in school history and finished undefeated for the first time since 1989. Hattiesburg falls to 14-1 and is denied their first-ever state championship for the fifth time.

Chambless won his fourth state championship with West Point and when asked if this one was more special because it was his first undefeated season, he said it is only the last game that matters.

“You just want to win your last one. That’s your ultimate goal and that’s what we were able to do tonight,” Chambless said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 14-1, or 13-2, but we just so happen to be 15-0 and that is something my kids wanted to do and we were able to do it.”