Photo courtesy of BT Douthit
Win number 426 for legendary Murphy Bulldogs Head Coach David Gentry was one for the books. His Dogs defeated Northside-Pinetown 14-7 to claim the schools 10th State Title, and 9th under his reign.
This title was definitely not one of the prettiest or easiest to come by. The Hall of Fame coach even said it himself, “This win wasn’t pretty. It was probably the ugliest state championship i’ve ever won- but, at the end we’re state champions so no ones going to remember that much. I’m just proud of these young men and our coaching staff and how this team came together and made a great football team.”
Defense was the name of the game for the Dogs, as they shut down the Northside offense, aside from a 70 yard touchdown run by the Northside Offensive Player of the Game James Gorham. Longtime Defensive coordinator and Murphy grad Thomas Nelson called a near perfect game in his final stint with the Bulldogs. Nelson will be the Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Athletic Director at Union County High School in Georgia next year.
It wasn’t just the number of tackles that Rathburn had that earned him the Defensive Player of the Game award, it was the moments that those tackles came in. Every time the Dogs needed a big third down stop or needed to come up with a big play on defense, Rathburn had his head on the ball.
Offensively, the Dogs relied heavily on the passing attack from quarterback Kellen Rumfelt and wideout Payton McCracken. Rumfelt was named the MVP of the game, and rightfully so.
Northside shut down the Murphy running attack, and the only way Murphy could move the ball was through the air. Rumfelt threw for 254 yards and a touchdown through just two and a half quarters. He was injured and had to come out of the game with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter, which makes his stat line that much more impressive.
This was McCrackens first game back since he had knee surgery a month ago, and he sure made the most of his opportunity. He had 5 catches for 127 yards and was named Murphys Offensive Player of the Game.
Coach Gentry had to hold back the tears when talking about what it meant to have Payton McCracken back for this game. “What a young man. We never thought he would come back. We really didn’t. He was on crutches until the Wednesday of the Robbinsville game….. All he did in the Robbinsville game was hold the PATs, thats all he was cleared to do. But he worked hard, and Wednesday of this week they released him completely. He’s a tremendous young man who brings a lot of enthusiasm to our football team. He gave us the fire that we needed. I cant say enough about him. He was “touched” I believe. I really do.”
This tenth State Championship Trophy will just shine a little different compared to the others sitting in that trophy case. The story about this football season is one that will be told for years to come.