Hattiesburg seeking state championship Saturday

Hattiesburg seeking state championship Saturday

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Every week of the 2017 football season, Hattiesburg High School successfully has met every challenge.

The Tigers will face their biggest of the challenge of the season Saturday night in one of the biggest games in the program's history.

Hattiesburg (14-0) will meet defending champion West Point High School (14-0) in the Class 5A state championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

"Me and their coach (Chris Chambless) talked at (Monday's) news conference, and he said, 'Y'all are gonna be the best team we've played all year,' and I said, 'Likewise,'" HHS coach Tony Vance said.

"But, that's the way it should be. The state championship game should have the best two teams playing, and I think we do."

The Tigers will be playing for a state title for the first time since 1998, when they dropped a 45-17 decision to South Panola High School. Since 1989, Hattiesburg has gone winless in four trips to the state title game.

West Point, which has won 27 consecutive games and 28 of its last 29, defeated Laurel High School in the Class 5A championship game last year.

"Our guys were just humbled by the fact that we were able to make it back," Chambless said. "We feel very blessed and very fortunate.

"But I'm telling my team the same thing, I expect it to be real good game, two good teams battling it out."

The Green Wave are led by dual-threat senior quarterback Marcus Murphy, who has averaged 9.5 yards a carry while piling up 1,635 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground. He also has thrown for 977 yards with nine interceptions.

Junior quarterback Jake Chambless also has see playing time, throwing for 670 yards and seven touchdowns. Neither quarterback has thrown an interception this season.

In addition to Murphy, five running backs have rushed for at least 200 yards this season. Senior Chris Calvert has averaged 10.1 yards a carry while rushing for 1,342 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Senior Nate Montgomery has 559 yards and seven scores, while senior Archie Jones has run for 314 yards and four touchdowns.

Senior receiver Jason Brownlee has averaged 23.8 yards a reception, with 39 catches for 928 yards and 11 touchdowns.

"They're a really good football team, a run-heavy football team, but they have one of the best receivers in the state," Vance said. "The quarterback, he's the guy who makes them go. Great football player.

"We'll have our hands full, but we think they will, too."

Junior quarterback Jarod Conner has been the triggerman in an offense that has been held to less than 40 points just twice in 14 games, both times by Laurel.

Conner has completed 129-of-230 passes for 2,301 yards and 25 touchdowns with two interceptions. The converted running back also has rushed for a team-high 1,416 yards and 26 touchdowns.

"During the spring, Coach told us we were going to have a pretty special group coming in," Conner said. "We worked hard during the spring and summer, and here we are."

Senior Fabian Franklin has run for 734 yards and 13 touchdowns. Junior Drexlan Allen, who rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns in Hattiesburg's 33-22 win over Laurel in the Class 5A South State championship game, has 603 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Senior D'Andre Humbles has averaged 24.6 yards a catch on38 catches for 936 yards and 12 touchdowns, while junior Darius Ruffin has 54 catches for 914 yards and five scores and senior Raheem Willis has 20 catches for 324 yards and six touchdowns.

Senior offensive tackle Quincy McGee went winless as a freshman playing for the Hattiesburg junior varsity.

Saturday, he plays for a state crown.

"Man, it feels great," McGee said. "That year was a nightmare. We didn't win (any) game. But (Vance) came in, and we just followed him.

"This year, we're a band of brothers. You can't break a band of brothers."