The Breakdown: Columbus @ West Point
Players To Watch:
Patrick Jackson: With so much production lost in the offensive backfield from last season’s dynamic duo of CJ Gholar and Kylin Hill, multiple players will have to fill that void. Jackson could be one of the key contributors, however, as he has the ability to run it out of the backfield, catch it in open space and return punts and kicks.
Kenneth Martin: This offseason Martin showed his abilities against some of the best players in the state at the Fortius Project. What he showed that day is that he possess freakish athletic ability to accompany his long frame. He could be a playmaker at multiple spots, as well, for the Falcons this season.
Tray Lucious: Lucious is one of the more athletic players on the roster. He is a standout as a defensive back, and even took some snaps at quarterback last season. With that spot open heading into this fall look for Lucious to be a weapon there.
Devon King: Another talented defensive back for the Falcons. King also brings experience to the defensive secondary having played a role for the 6A contender for multiple seasons now. He will bring much needed leadership and consistency this season.
Josh Gray: Like a few of the guys on this list for Randal Montgomery’s squad, Gray is a player that could contribute at more than one spot. Either way, he is an athletic and physical player that you want on your side with Friday night lights getting cranked back up.
West Point Green Wave
Marcus Murphy: Murphy was named to the Elite 10 this past summer due to his combination of speed, athleticism and agility. Last season he spent significant time running at quarterback, and this season he should again see action there. However, expect coach Chris Chambless to use him at other spots, as well.
Chris Calvert: Last season Calvert played in just six games due to lingering injuries. He averaged over eight yards per carry when he was on the field, though. It’s remarkable to think how much better the Green Wave offense can be with him on the field more in 2017.
Jason Brownlee: On offense Brownlee was the go-to option when West Point went to the air in 2016. He caught for nearly 600 yards and 10 scores, using his excellent size, speed and ball skills to make hard catches on the edge. He also used those hands and excellent concentration to pull down two picks on defense, to go with 23 tackles. With an average of 19.4 yards per reception a season ago, it’s a sure bet to see more plays designed for new starter at quarterback, Jake Chambless, to get Brownlee the ball.
Terence Cherry: Every great defense must have that guy, or guys, that can go get the passer in crucial situations. For West Point, most certainly a good defense in 2016, that man was Cherry, as he recorded 18 sacks. He will again be a good building block for a dominant defense this fall. Expect his production, and attention, to increase this season. He is a bright personality and an emotional leader for his team.
Xavier Fair: Fair went over the century mark in tackles as a junior, recording double-digit stops in three games. That was far from all he did, though, as he recorded sacks in four different games, including three in the North half final versus Lake Cormorant. He also added an interception. His numbers reflect his versatility in the middle of the Green Wave defense.
Keys to the Game:
With little returning experience in the offensive backfield, it will be interesting to see how the Falcons try to attack the juggernaut that is the Green Wave defense.
A strong secondary will help the Falcons if, and that’s a big if, West Point goes to the air. However, the Wave rode a strong running game to a title and an undefeated finish in 2016. Expect more of the same with Marcus Murphy and Chris Calvert back in the fold this season. Whether or not Columbus flexes their muscles defensively in the middle of the field will determine if they can stop that rushing attack and win this contest.
Both of these teams have players who possess big-play potential. Who hits more of the highlight runs? Week one can bring breakdowns, and if the defenses do so, the offenses can take advantage.
Marcus Murphy. Nine times in 2016 did the Preseason All-SES member rush for over 100 yards. This offseason he settled in with his pledge to local SEC program Mississippi State and appears to be focused to leading his team to another 5A crown. This is where he bursts out of the gates.