Georgia Force Comes to Town to Challenge the Bulldogs
Written by Brandon Stephens
Photo by BT Douthit
(Murphy) – – You must love the first high school football game of the fall to see the Bulldogs march down the hill and give us thrilling moments in football. When Andy Williams sang “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” he was imagining being at Bob Hendrix Stadium/David Gentry Field watching football. So, the 2021 season home opener is this week (Friday, September 3, 2021) and the Georgia Force will roll into Murphy to challenge the Bulldogs. While we have that exciting feeling, the Bulldogs are fortunate to be playing, with so many teams beginning to halt the games due to the challenges of COVID-19 spreading. Murphy has maintained good health and lifted its spirits with really good practices and some healing from the loss to Franklin a couple of weeks ago.
The focus for the Murphy Bulldogs is to execute, be serious, do work, and lock down a win at home. Coach Watson told the Bulldogs this week, “We will have a lot of people here to watch this game (with Georgia Force). Let’s be excited and ready to go. If you’re going to be good this season and on Friday night, you have to lock down all of your strength and skill and get going.” For the last two weeks, which included an open date last week, the Bulldogs have worked diligently to overcome mistakes and build strength. Wednesday’s practice (September 1) was the first this week where the team practiced outside, and you could tell the spirit and sincerity to success is with the team.
The Georgia Force, Blue Knights is a team comprised of home-schooled students from the Duluth/Buford, Georgia area, which over the last 16 seasons has generated some great success among the Georgia Football League and some national attention. The expectation is this team will rely on its passing game, where it will show a spread offense lead by Junior Quarterback Caleb Fleitz, who may play some linebacker. One of his favored targets if wide receiver Josh Patterson, who will make up most of the offensive yards. The Blue Knights, depending on lucky they feel, will show an 80% or 90% passing game. Big size is not a factor with this team, unless you count the center, Adam Fisher, who is almost 6’2 and 300 pounds. Smaller, in-shape, fast, skilled players describe the attributes of most players with the Georgia Force.
Georgia Force is a team that does really well at Seven-on-Seven competition, where they can exercise the true bandwidth of the speed, skill, and dexterity of the team. Players to watch include Senior Running Back (number 2) Jake Cieply, Senior Wide Receiver (number 3) Josh Patterson, (number 11) Will Pritchett, (number 14) Kyle Mosely. This team will run a few speed options and a couple of counter plays. But look for the ball to be delivered to Blue Knight carriers by air mail. The defense is very skilled and loves to use its speed to get opportunity to pull down an interception.
The game two years ago was dominated by Murphy down in Duluth. Murphy scored almost every time the Bulldogs touched the ball, until Coach Gentry placed second string and underclassmen in the game. The final was Murphy 40 Georgia Force 9.
And the Bulldogs are doing well…
Expectations and hopes hung on Kellen Rumfelt being at the top of his game after suffering a shoulder injury in Raleigh during the state championship game. He knows he was shaky at Franklin. But he has been strong and throwing crisp on target passes. “I’m feeling pretty good. You know my shoulder has been feeling great actually. Our practices have been really up tempo all week. We are really excited to play Friday,” Kellen noted. He felt that it was good to get out on the field for a practice. He knows Georgia Force is a good team and should not be taken lightly. “We are going to have to work really hard all night. They (Georgia Force) are really talented. You know up front they do OK better than they were two years ago. We are going to have to play our hearts out,” Rumfelt added.
Facing Georgia Force this week will be a good exercise for the Bulldogs to help gain some offensive momentum for the teams they will face during the season. While the Franklin game was an eye-opener for the Bulldogs and Junior Running Back Ty Laney says the team is using that game to build grit and determination to not only face the Blue Knights but be a Bulldog Force this season. “We have been practicing really hard this week. We are trying to be the boys we were last year, better than what we were last year. I think we are going pretty Good,” Laney stated. He says he can’t wait to run down the hill and get in front of the hyped home crowd and … GATA (You know what the acronym means). “We are ready to show them (Murphy Fans) what we are. That Franklin game is not us,” Ty added.
There may be a few passes zooming over the head of our Bulldogs in the trenches, but it is key for the big guys to hurry Blue Knight Quarterback Caleb Fleitz. Do that and the Georgia Force game plan and drive for success crumbles. Key to hurrying the QB will be linemen like Bulldogs Senior Defensive Lineman Rylan Smith. Like most linemen, still waters run deep, man of few words, do work, and stop the opponent from scoring. Rylan Smith says Murphy has improved over the last two weeks. “We got better during the last two weeks and just went over the small things we messed up in the Franklin game,” Rylan told us. For this week Rylan says the linemen must be on their toes, while expecting a pass, but maybe Georgia Force will run the ball, and the goal is to maintain pressure on the passing quarterback.
Coaching the Bulldogs through a two-week period has been a time to reset and adjust after the Franklin game. Murphy Head Football Coach Joseph Watson says, “Two weeks kinda helped us with a lot of learning going on. We are ready; we are ready to get after it; ready to come off the hill; we are ready to play another game.” Getting outside, mid-week was helpful to stay out of the gym and feel grass and sod under their feet was exhilarating to the team after remnants of hurricane Ida made outside practice tough. Part of the strength Georgia Force has is the mystery of the unknown, because stats, consistent play, and how this team works is not widely known. One weakness is that most Blue Knights are home schooled and don’t have the daily interaction like the Bulldogs who go to breakfast, classes, and practices in unity. So how do you stop them offensively and get past their defense? “That is a good question. That’s what we always try to do. You know we try to get stops on them defensively and continue to move the ball on them offensively,” Coach Watson remarked.
This week’s game will be an exciting game to see. It’s the season home opener. We will see how the Bulldogs have worked to correct some mistakes from two weeks ago. Friday night’s game will also be Youth League Night. By the way the Murphy Youth Football teams (the pups) are scheduled to travel to Franklin. Good Luck to them. And don’t forget to support the Junior Varsity this week as Murphy will travel to Andrews to take on the Wildcats on Thursday (September 2, 2021).
Effects of the ‘Rona’
We knock on wood, wash our hands, wear masks, sanitize, vaccinate and do all the things we need to do to ward off the COVID-19 plague. Murphy has been lucky with dodging infection and the need to quarantine. While remaining healthy, other teams are not so fortunate. Murphy was notified today (September 1st) that South Pittsburgh (Tennessee) has cancelled its game due to infection rates and the need to quarantine its players. There is talk additional games may be cancelled. Coach Watson, after Wednesday practice, was searching the region ranging from Tuscola, Smoky Mountain, Brevard, and Gilmer (GA) to fill next week’s schedule.
Most teams and coaches you encounter want to continue to play. But there is a sense of paranoia to engage with teams due to the rising infection rate. Even though they are a rival team, you feel some compassion for teams like Robbinsville, Franklin, and others who must stop play due to the infection rates or positive cases in the area. The tough call to protect health and wellness is key. The reality for Murphy is the Bulldogs are doing well in its battle against the ‘Rona’ but others are not doing so well and may leave our football team on an island of safe teams that can’t play. I wouldn’t be surprised if we woke up tomorrow and there were more teams that had to take a powder from this season for a week or more to stay clear of COVID-19. Stay safe; stay clean; stay strong; and Go Bulldogs!