West Point playmakers like Marcus Murphy and Chris Calvert are gone. So now what?
“We got guys that have waited their turns and are ready to show what they can bring,” said West Point coach Chris Chambless.
The Green Wave are once again one of the favorites in Class 5A but will be relying on some new faces in 2018.
Out of the three or four running backs West Point will be using Brandon Harris is the only one returning with any game experience. Harris rushed for 214 yards with three touchdowns to help contribute the stiff rushing attack that averaged 328.1 yards per game last season.
“I’m excited that we got three or four backs that can run down and show what they can bring to the program,” Chambless said. “Our offensive line is the bunch that carries the offense.”
One big thing for West Point is that quarterback Jake Chambless returns for his senior season after throwing for 679 yards with seven touchdowns last year.
“Jake has a stepped up as far as a leadership and as a father, that’s awesome to see,” Chambless said of his son. “This team gets along, loves each other and is fun to be around.”
Defensively, the Green Wave look to be just as dominant as they were last year.
West Point returns five starters that’ll be led by defensive end Jaylen Cungious (45 tackles, 3 sacks in 2017) along with linebackers Brandon Lairy, Brent Cunningham and defensive back Tyler Rupert.
“We still have guys with speed and that are fast and love to be physical,” Chambless said. “These guys are motivated because people are writing them off just because we lost a lot of seniors. These guys have worked hard in the offseason and are going to be fun to watch.”
Hattiesburg: The Tigers are coming off a trip to the Class 5A state championship game and are eager to make it back. Jarod Conner returns at quarterback after passing for 2,555 yards with 25 touchdowns and also rushing for 1,443 yards and 28 touchdowns. Drexlan Allen returns at running back and Darius Ruffin returns at wide receiver. Defensive end and Auburn commit Jaren Handy comes in from Perry Central and Hakeem Vance comes in from Lewisburg at safety. Both are a huge boost to an already talented team. Also returning for the defense are returning starters Ra’Sheim Jordan, George Murry and Tadrian Leflore.
NEXT IN LINE
Laurel: The Tornadoes are aiming to get back to the Class 5A state championship game for the second time in the last three years and have a loaded bunch returning to make a run. Both quarterbacks return for Laurel in Sinclair Ulmer and Xavier Evans. Also back are both running backs in Zias Perryman and Michael Terrell, who’s coming off a midseason injury. Linebacker Javion Smith, along with defensive backs Keno Shelby and Levi Walker, return to anchor a young but fast defensive unit.
Picayune: The Maroon Tide will be looking for a bounce back year in 2018 after losing in the first round of the playoffs last year to Laurel. Jakail Myers will be the new quarterback and will anchor the always dangerous Picayune rushing attack. Like always, the Tide will be using different backs led by Jortin Raine. Five starters return on defense for Picayune led by linebacker Dylan Schaubhut and defensive back Jermiah Stallings.
Olive Branch: The Conquistadors made a strong statement in year one under head coach Tyler Turner going from 0-11 to 12-2 and reached the Class 5A North State Championship game last season. Cole Catledge will be the starting quarterback for Olive Branch after passing for 553 yards with a touchdown and also rushing for 392 yards with six touchdowns last year. Cameron Mosley (383 yards rushing, 9 touchdowns in 2017) will be the anchor the running game while E.J. Davis (455 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns) will be the top receiver. Defensively, all three linebackers return in Kado Carr (68 tackles in 2017), Jevon Banks (66 tackles), and Caden Burse (63 tackles).
Grenada: The Chargers are coming off a 7-7 season in 2017 and got to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Grenada will be breaking in a new quarterback in Abbott Hankins. Demarquese Gibson will be the primary running back this year after rushing for 588 yards with four touchdowns in 2017. Wide receiver Jamarius Robinson is back after posting 591 yards with four touchdowns last year and will be one to keep an eye on. Defense is what Grenada will be leaning on early with eight starters back, which includes the entire defensive line. Linebackers Jasper Williams and Malik James will anchor the defense.
West Jones: Mustangs are aiming to get past the first round of the Class 5A playoffs after coming up short against Stone last season. Offensively, West Jones has five starters back that’ll be led by quarterback Dusty Cook (682 yards passing, 5 touchdowns in 2017) and will use three different running backs in Jasper Jones, Londarrius McRunnels and Michael Neal. Defense is where West Jones will hang their hats on early with nine starters back. The entire defensive line is back led by highly talented defensive end Byron Young (30 tackles, 14 sacks in 2017) and Jon Micah Coleman. Jaylen Keyes and Sley Lyon return to anchor the linebackers, while Cedric Bender and Antonie Kirk will lead a veteran secondary.
Brookhaven: The Panthers welcome back Tucker Peavey as its new head coach after spending the last four years as head coach at Southwest Community College. Brookhaven is coming off a year where they fell short in a heart-breaker to Laurel in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Sevante Quinn (1,432 yards passing, 21 touchdowns) returns at quarterback and Jaquarius Edwards (1,158 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns) is back at running back to anchor the offense along with top receivers John Hilbert and Don Blandon. Linebacker D.J. Durr (78 tackles, 4 sacks in 2017) will anchor a veteran front seven for the Panthers, while Byron Robinson and Wesley Calcote will lead the secondary.
Stone: Tomcats were the biggest surprise in 2017 reaching the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Offensively, Stone must replace their quarterback and three of their top four running backs. Defense is where Stone will lean heavily on led by linebackers Trey Arrington (108 tackles, 3 sacks in 2017) and Kelton Marshall (45 tackles).
Wayne County: Waynesboro native Shelton Gandy takes over the program after Todd Mangum retired and looks to keep the tradition going. A key for the War Eagles in 2018 is staying healthy after suffering through a ton of injuries last year that saw three different quarterbacks having to play. Zhakerreun Wesley will be the quarterback and lead a young offense, while defensively Riley Revon (66 tackles) and defensive tackle Braxton Lee (35 tackles) will lead the defense.
Lafayette: The Commodores are coming off a 3-8 season in their first year in 5A, however, they enough firepower back to make a run in Region 1-5A. Athlete Brandon Turnage returns after suffering a season-ending foot injury early last year and is primed to have a break out year. Replacing Jamarcus Quarles at running back will be a concern. Linebackers Jason Sawyer and Jemetrio Crowder return to lead the defense.
- West Point
- Olive Branch
- West Jones
- Wayne County
GAMES TO WATCH
Aug. 17: Wayne County at West Jones
Aug. 25: Laurel at Hattiesburg
Sept. 28: Brookhaven at Laurel
Oct. 5: Olive Branch at Grenada
Oct. 12: West Point at Olive Branch
Oct. 19: Germantown at Cleveland Central
Oct. 19: Picayune at Hattiesburg
Oct. 19: Stone at Wayne County
Oct. 19: West Point at Grenada
Nov. 2: West Jones at Brookhaven