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The best high school football player you never heard of lives in Forest City, NC

·5 min read

A few Fridays back, North Gaston played Chase in a high school football game, and North Gaston head coach Justin Clark came away convinced he’d seen one of the best players in North Carolina.

Chase High junior Marqies McCombs, a 16-year-old junior, led his team to a 36-26 win, and Clark had to think really hard about when he’s seen a running back this good.

Chase High School is about 75 minutes west of uptown Charlotte. With 722 students, it is about 1/3 the size of an average high school in Mecklenburg County.

“He’s one of the better backs that I’ve ever had to coach against,” Clark said of McCombs, “and I’ve been doing this about 14 years. He’s one of the most dynamic backs I’ve ever had to coach against, too.”

Friday night, McCombs had 29 carries for 362 yards and five touchdowns in a 47-14 win over McDowell. The yards rank 77th in North Carolina public history and the most ever by a Chase player in a single game.

For the season, McCombs has 1,313 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns in five games for the Trojans (5-0), who play at Hendersonville (5-1) Friday. McCombs’ rushing yards rank third in the nation and his 142 total points rank second.

His 21 rushing touchdowns are fourth in America.

Chase High running back Marqies McCombs
Chase High running back Marqies McCombs

At his current pace of 262 yards per game, McCombs will rush for nearly 3,000 yards in the regular-season.

“I always surprise myself,” McCombs said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting to come in this year and do all the things I did.”

North Gaston’s Clark finds it “fascinating” that McCombs — 5-foot-10 and 180-pounds — doesn’t have a single college offer.

“He runs unbelievably hard for his size,” Clark said. “He’s extremely hard to tackle and he has great vision. You put all those things together and he’s the real deal.

“He’s the total package for sure.”

McCombs didn’t play the full season in the spring, when was at East Rutherford. He tried to stiff arm an opponent in the fifth game — which came against Chase, of all teams.

“I broke my wrist,” McCombs said. “The top of my hand went all the back towards my forearm. It hurt, bad, man.

“Like pain level on 10.”

As a sophomore, McCombs ran 53 times for 204 yards and no touchdowns in five games. He knew he wanted more.

During his time away from football, McCombs said he worked like he never had worked before, realizing how fast the game he loves so much can be taken away. With his arm in a cast, he drilled into his lower body, using heavy weights to build strength and bands to build speed.

He ran a 4.5-second 40 at a regional VTO camp in Concord, where he was named the top running back, and after transferring to Chase, he quickly impressed coach Chris Cogdill with a a weightlifting feat in class.

“Marqies was a freshman at East Rutherford during my last year (as defensive coordinator) at Burns,” Cogdill said. “I kind of knew who he was but I didn’t know him that well. In May, he power-cleaned 275 pounds and I knew then that he was going to be explosive.”

Sure enough, in Chase’s first game of the fall season, a 54-21 win over West Henderson, McCombs ran 20 times for 300 yards and five touchdowns.

In one game as a junior, he outperformed his entire sophomore season.

And his coach thinks McCombs is only getting started.

“He’s going to be really good,” Cogdill said. “I’m not a college coach and it’s not my job to project where he can play, but he will obviously play college football. I don’t know how tall you gotta be to be the running back at Alabama, North Carolina or Clemson, but this kid has rushed for 1,300 yards in five ballgames. I think that says something.”

McCombs credits his offensive line and said he thanks them often. A 2A school, Chase is blessed with a line many 4A teams would love to have. Hayden Galloway, Luke McGinnis, Shane Parker, Reagan McCranie and Connor Hensley average about 6-foot-1 and 275 pounds. Cogdill thinks that Cranie, a 6-3, 310-pound junior, has Power 5 potential.

“Our offensive line is really good,” Cogdill said. “You put that with Marqies’ athletic ability and senior quarterback Damian Boykins distributes the ball real well. Those five linemen love Marqies and Damian, and Damian and Marqies love them, too.”

McCombs is obviously enjoying this magical season with his new team, and he doesn’t want these big Friday night performances to ever stop.

“I feel like I’m way faster and way stronger than year,” he said. “During these last six months, I grinded harder than I’ve ever grinded. Now I just want to finish this out and keep grinding, and hopefully the college offers will come in if I keep doing what I’m doing.”

The Marqies McCombs File

Favorite TV Show: “Power”

Favorite Streaming Service: Netflix

Favorite Musical Artist: Rapper Young Boy (“Because he speaks to me.”)

What’s on your playlist: “Young Boy, Rod Wave, Big Yavo and that’s really it.”

Favorite Running Back: former Tarboro High star Todd Gurley (“I like how he reads the defense and burst through the holes”).

Hobbies: Playing Call of Duty, NBA 2K or Madden on the Xbox

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