Marcus Murphy (2) will look to lead West Point to a second straight MHSAA Class 5A state championship during the 2017 season. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
July 11, 2017 4:43:01 PM
Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters will look at five prep football questions each Wednesday between now and Aug. 16, 2017, as we count down to the start of the prep football season.
During the prep baseball playoffs, some media members took to Twitter and began the insane countdowns for the start of football season.
As a close friend of mine would say "There is a time and place for everything."
Now, with the vacation receipts put away and the residence boasting a new coat of paint and flooring, it really is now officially time to start talking about football season.
Essentially the month of July exists to shoot fireworks, pull out some Christmas music and to finalize plans for the upcoming year on the gridiron.
As we join the countdown craze, we will look at five critical prep football questions each Wednesday until Columbus and West Point get things underway Aug. 17 at Hamblin Stadium.
1. What was your lasting memory of the 2016 season?
Easily, it would have to be the dominance of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state champion West Point team.
The Green Wave began the season with as many as nine juniors starting for the first time on defense. The unit meshed together well and was dominant during the second half of the season.
On offense, Marcus Murphy is a great place to start building a football team. The consensus all-state selection and Mississippi State commitment ran for 1,756 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. He will be the odds-on favorite for state player of the year honors this season.
Murphy got help from quarterback Clayton Knight, who played well after transferring from Saltillo. The duo put up good numbers and helped the team overcome fellow running back Chris Calvert being slowed by injury. Calvert battled concussion-like symptoms and played in only six games.
This season, the quarterback will be new but both Murphy and Calvert return. The defense will also be finely-tuned and ready to wreak havoc again.
How good was the West Point defense a year ago? The Green Wave allowed three touchdowns in four playoff wins. In the postseason, West Point won by average margin of slightly better than 32 points per game.
2. Which coach are you looking forward to seeing in action this year?
Can't wait to see what Chris Jones does in his first season at Starkville High.
Four years ago, Randal Montgomery made the move from a Class 3A power (Hazlehurst) to a Class 6A program (Columbus). Now Jones does the same going from Kemper County to Starkville.
Montgomery had to build from the ground up with a major rebuild of the junior high program being a top priority. Class 6A programs also have more players to choose from, it is just a matter of getting them on the practice field.
Jones has the luxury of the inheriting a program already humming along at a nice pace. After missing the playoffs in 2016, a talent-rich junior high program was supposed to be the key to getting the Yellow Jackets back on top in 2017 and 2018.
We would assume Jones will be in it for the long haul at one of the state's best programs. We are anxious to see how quickly things get off the ground.
3. Which player will be missed the most this season?
If this was a quiz show, the money totals would be racking up quickly, because quite honestly these questions are too easy.
Columbus will begin life without Kylin Hill this season. To the average observer, a star player lost off a 6-6 team may not be a huge blow. However, one must dig deeper to find the impact of Hill.
After back-to-back 1,750 yard rushing seasons, Hill finished his four-year career with right at 4,000 yards. The Mississippi State signee also had a major impact on the passing game and was the backbone of the kick return game.
Now Columbus will pick up the pieces and look for a third straight playoff appearance with a lot of new faces. The guess for rushing load is senior Patrick Jackson, who really starred in the handful of games Hill missed for injury.
Columbus will miss Hill but it will also miss quarterback C.J. Gholar, fellowing running back Kendre Conner and several defensive stars.
From a statewide perspective, the loss of Hill may be the biggest. We will watch to see what the youthful Falcons do in his absence.
4. Does it ever get tiring asking yourself questions?
Actually, no. It is a labor but it is a labor of love.
The best columns are short, sweet, to the point and entertaining. We try to hit at least three of those four on a weekly basis.
The year ahead will be full of some great story lines. We will cover some great coaches and watch some talented players play. There will be some great radio broadcasts as well as some great concession stand hot dogs.
Can Starkville Academy and Heritage Academy continue to win at high levels? Can West Point repeat? Can Noxubee County return to the top? Can Starkville return to the playoffs?
Really the questions write themselves. We will have fun answering them in the weeks ahead.
5. Have all of the supplies been bought for this season?
Yes, indeed, two sets of pens and two sets of legal pads ready to go.
Once again, home team stats will be done in black, visiting team stats will be done in red. Scoring plays will be noted in blue. First downs, penalties and changes of possessions will be noted in green.
Typically, an entire quarter can fit on one piece of paper (hint to Montgomery here -- run the ball more). A fifth sheet of paper is needed for game-ending stats and other highlights.
After all, a professional report must be given to Jason Crowder each Friday night around 10:50 p.m. (load the Good Times theme back at WFCA please).
The tape recorder is ready. The folder of rosters will soon be created. The binoculars are missing but surely there are in one of three places.
Not packing the rain gear this year but will be packing a few extra gas cards.
And to Gavin Gilbert, no onions on my cheeseburger on Sept. 8.
Scott Walters is a sports reporter for the Commercial Dispatch. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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