FOXWORTH, Miss. (WDAM) _ Both Jartavious Martin and Qavonte Swanigan started contributing to the West Marion High School football program as ninth graders, earning larger roles over the next few years.
So, when West Marion coach Brad Duncan was asked to select a “Player of the Pine Belt,” the long-time leader of the Trojans insisted the pair share the spotlight.
“That’s two special kids,” Duncan said. “Both of ‘em kind of represent what West Marion football’s about and been about for a long time. That’s two really good ones.
“They’re both smaller kids, but they both got a little bit of quicksie about ‘em, a little bit of speed. They’re just tough, hard-working kids. You can win football games with those kinds of kids.”
West Marion has won a lot of football games over the past four years with the 5-foot-6, 165-pound Martin and the 5-9, 175-pound Swanigan.
In 2019, the Trojans started off 8-0 before losing the Region 8-3A crown with a loss to archrival Columbia High School. A month later, West Marion saw a 12-2 season end in 14-0 playoff loss to eventual Class 3A state champion Jefferson Davis County High School.
“One thing about West Marion, (we’re) bulls,” Martin said. “We love physicality, especially me. When I play running back, I’m not trying to escape. I’m going to run at you. It just translates to the safety position where I’m going to come and hit you.”
And they love playing with a chip on their shoulder.
“We actually like that, we feed off of it really,” Swanigan said. “It just makes us work harder every day to prove people wrong. It feels good being the underdog sometimes.”
Duncan said West Marion produces tough kids who play with a passion.
“We’ve got three core beliefs that for the last 15 years we’ve kind of built our program around,” Duncan said. “Toughness, I think our kids prove that they’re tough. And our definition for toughness is we don’t quit. We’re not going to ever give up. Number two is effort. The average football play, three, four five seconds at the most. You can give it all you got for that amount of time.
“The last one’s passion. To play with all your heart, and we ask them to do that every day. We’re going to love our teammates. We’re going to have a lot of love for my brother. We’re going to have a T-shirt made, in fact.”
Swanigan, who missed the majority of his sophomore season after a knee injury, said the Trojans have taken the three-pillar approach to heart.
“We focus on all three of them, especially passion, loving our teammates,” said Swanigan, a receiver/defensive back. “And effort, go hard every play. And toughness – that’s what everybody around here is, that’s what we’re made of.
“This year I think we can be even better because we got more guys coming in that are working harder than ever. We got new guys coming in, first day here they’re working harder than some of the people who’ve been here. I believe we’re going to be real good this year.”