Murphy carries the load for West Point

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Marcus Murphy (left) receives the C Spire Player of the Game Award from Johnny Mims of the Mississippi Association of Coaches.

Keith Warren/MHSAA

Marcus Murphy (left) receives the C Spire Player of the Game Award from Johnny Mims of the Mississippi Association of Coaches.

STARKVILLE — West Point senior Marcus Murphy has committed to continue his football career at Mississippi State. Here, Saturday night, he made himself right at home at Scott Field.

The game program listed Murphy as an athlete. That, he is. He ran for 141 hard-earned yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries to lead the tradition-rich Green Wave to a 29-8 victory over Laurel for the Class 5A State championship.

Rick Cleveland

Melanie Thortis

Rick Cleveland

Lining up at both quarterback and running back and playing on a slippery wet turf, Murphy scored all three second half touchdowns on runs of 3, 1 and 2 yards. Much of his yardage came after first and second hits. At a lean 6 feet, 2 inches and 191 pounds, he ran much bigger than his size and kept his legs churning for extra yardage.

West Point was still in a one-score game, leading 16-8 midway through the fourth quarter. The Green Wave faced fourth and goal at the Laurel 1-yard line. A chip shot of a field goal would have made it a two-score game but West Point coach Chris Chambless never hesitated.

“The book probably says you kick the field goal there,” Chambless said. “But I just had a lot of confidence in Marcus and a lot of confidence in our offensive line to get a push.”

Murphy took the shotgun snap and knifed into the end zone with ease.

“That’s just West Point football,” Murphy said. “If it’s fourth and one, you’re supposed to score. That’s what we did.”

Laurel coach Todd Breland knew his team faced an all night chore in dealing with Murphy,

“He’s an outstanding player,” Breland said, “He’s as good as we’ve seen at that position.”

Which position?

“Either one,” Breland said. “I’m sure their thought process is just to line him up in the best way to get the ball in his hands as many times as possible. I would do the same thing.”

Many observers expect Murphy to play on the other side of the football at State.

“They’ve talked to me about safety,” he said. “I don’t care. I just want to play.”

Said Chambless, “He can play wherever they put him and he’ll be an asset. He’s just a high character kid who never has a bad day. He’s a leader; he keeps us going.”

So did West Point’s defense this night. Laurel came in averaging 40 points a game. Nobody had held the Golden Tornadoes below 20 points before this night.

It helped to have a workhorse such as Murphy to grind out the tough yardage and keep the Tornadoes offense off the field. Final time of possession: West Point 33 minutes and 50 seconds to Laurel’s 14:10. You can’t score a lot of points in 14 minutes, certainly not 40.

“Our goal all year has been to get another gold ball (championship trophy) for West Point,” Murphy said. “We haven’t won one since 2010. That’s way too long for West Point.”

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Rick Cleveland is Mississippi Today’s sports columnist. Read his previous columns and his Sports Daily blog. Reach Rick at [email protected]