Murphy Football: 2022 Bulldogs Season Preview and Predictions

Sports, Team FYN Sports, TeamFYNSports

A Preview of the Murphy Bulldogs for the Fall 2022 Season and a Prediction or Two


By Brandon Stephens


(Murphy) – – The Murphy Bulldogs football team is officially into the season, switching from workouts into practice sessions and getting out of shorts and into shoulder pads, helmets, and cleats…and the heat.  Baking under the hot sun, running plays, and waiting for Head Football Coach Joseph Watson to blow the whistle for a water break is the setting until Murphy hosts the Franklin Panthers on Friday night, August 19th.  Each day, there is substantial progress toward making the plays happen and making them look good.

Balance is a key descriptive for the Bulldogs.   During the past few seasons, Murphy has had a star player(s) that has led the offense and defense.  A go-to player/superstar like Devonte Murray, Payton McCracken, J’uan Allen, or offensive leader like Kellen Rumfelt does not exist so much this year. Yousef Mugharbil and Rylan Smith aren’t walking through the door either.  This year the Bulldogs will have to band together and use collective strength and efforts to make the touchdowns and deflect the opponent.  So let’s break this down starting with offense, then defense, and the opponents.

Bulldog Offense

The preseason preparations are complete and Murphy leadership is working to replace a critical offensive spot, wide receiver.  Probably, the best returning receiver, Cole Laney, is working the quarterback spot, which we will address in a second.  There is no doubt the presence of Payton McCracken is missing from this team.  Murphy has been exercising a bushel of people at receiving including Cameron Grooms, Dominick Rummler, Dozer Mashburn, Hunter Stalcup, and Trenton Russell to name a few.  “It’s tough to replace Payton, but we have a lot of players that can catch the ball.  We have to find the right set of receivers to collectively make up that spot, and we may have more opportunities than what we think,” Coach Watson stated about building the passing game.  We previewed Will Johnson in an earlier article, and he will be a key leader to round out the pure passing game at tight end.

Four Bulldogs will be primary ball carriers for Murphy.  Senior veteran Ty Laney, who had over 12-hundred yards rushing, 11 touchdowns, and almost 100 yards per game in 2021, will lead the rushing game.  Senior John Ledford who was injured in the Spring 2021 season will return for his senior year.  Before the injury, Ledford demonstrated great ability to pick up the tough yards for some straight-on running and getting into the end zone.  Hunter Stalcup, who has dropped some body fat and put on some muscle, will round out the three rushers in the Murphy Wing-T.  Stalcup posted 11 touchdowns on 81 carries and more than 700 yards of offense.  Sophomore Jonah Hedden will rotate in and out of the game.  Hedden picked up his first varsity touchdown in 2021 in the 58-to-20 will over Alleghany with 2:00 remaining in the game. Hedden will be a contributor this season.

Having big boys on the line will help the Murphy Bulldogs in many ways.  The line is big with an average size of 250 pounds.  Ricky Queen takes the prize for size at 340 lbs.  The impressive part of the line is agility and speed.  The cliché in football is “speed kills.”  Watch out for the line, because they have speed to go along with their size, which isn’t always the case.  Mason Thrasher (250 lbs.), Jonathan Hamby (252 lbs.), Ricky Queen (340 lbs.), and Gabe Chastain (202 lbs.) are a few that will create the offensive and defensive lines.  This group of Big Dawgs has speed and agility which will come in handy for keeping pace with changing plays to protect the quarterback or blitz and hurry the opponent.  Watch the Murphy line to be a really good asset.

Murphy Bulldog Quarterback Cole Laney gives us his impressions of how the offense is looking for this season.  Cole’s comments are at the link in this article.

Bulldog Defense

Ironman football is the name of the game of the Murphy Bulldogs.  Everyone on offense will line up on defense.  The Bulldogs will load up the defensive secondary with speed players like Hunter Stalcup at Safety and the corners will include Cameron Grooms, Wyatt Simmons, and Trenton Russell.  The secondary will have good speed and have an eye for the ball.  Game experience will be a good teacher for these players as most of them do not have a lot of experience in the defensive secondary.  Early in the season, teams that can pass may be a threat to the Bulldogs.  The linebackers will include John Ledford, Ty Laney, and Kadence Leatherwood, three bruising guys with speed and great ability to read plays.  Put the offensive line on the defensive side and add Will Johnson as a defensive end.

Special teams will feature Will Joyner kicking off, point after attempts, and field goals.  Hunter Stalcup will punt for the Bulldogs.

Be agile, mobile, hostile, and not fragile is what I used to hear defensive football coaches preach to me.  Bulldog Lineman Kyle Willard says the Murphy Bulldogs are skilled, brawny, brainy, ready to protect their quarterback and runners, and cause a few “snot-bubbles” to their opponents.  Kyle’s comments are available at the link in this article.

Take Aways

  • Murphy may have to play some ironman football with most of the team playing both offense and defense.
  • The Bulldogs will have a good amount of depth in the line, which will allow the team to rotate in and out tired players and go man up if an injury occurs.
  • The Bulldogs may not have the receivers dialed in, but there is a respectable number of players that can catch the ball and make plays happen.
  • Conversely, the defensive secondary will be tested if it meets up with a team that presents a prolific passing game.
  • The great goal for the team is to keep the quarterback, Cole Laney, healthy and protected.
  • The offense is skilled and ready to play with many different options of running or passing.
  • The defense has players that made great plays and is tuned into the game. Don’t forget the touchdowns that came from people like Kyle Willard who played his assignments and turned the table on the opponent.
  • Ty Laney and Hunter Stalcup brought people to their feet with great run plays backed with mental toughness, which is difficult to teach to players.
  • Besides being in good shape and having skill, the Bulldogs are confident to make sure the team follows through with its strategy. If they do that, Murphy will have fantastic opportunity make the Fall 2022 season one to remember.

A word with Coach Watson

Murphy Head Football Coach Joseph Watson is in his second season leading the Bulldogs.  He is leading the team with good coaches and players rolling with workouts, practices, changes in players and some policy.  We were curious about some of his thoughts on his team, the opponents for this season, and any changes we may expect.  You can hear his full comments at the link in this article.  We asked him the following questions:

  • What are your thoughts on how teams in surrounding states begin practices earlier than North Carolina?
  • What are your thoughts on having only six teams in the Smoky Mountain Conference?
  • Who are you looking forward to facing among those teams?
  • Any new coaches?
  • Anything new for your team this year
  • What do you want fans and boosters to know about the Murphy Bulldog Football team in the Fall 2022 Season?


There are some teams we don’t know a lot about like South Pittsburgh (TN), Fannin County (GA), Commerce (GA), and New Faith Christian Academy.  Several teams in the Smoky Mountain Conference have lost valued, senior, veteran, skilled, superstar talent to graduation and they are rebuilding.  The non-conference teams are either rock solid or trying to build a foundation.  I didn’t arrive at this conclusion based on passion or skeptical thought.  I had a few words with some of the Bulldogs and assuming some of the factors we expressed, the following games are possible assuming all environmental factors of health, confidence, and making the plays.  My prediction is based on the following criteria 1) Last season’s outcome; 2) Home advantage or traveling; 3) veteran players on each team (regardless of position); 4) Team advantages and vulnerability; and 5) Major changes (example: Coaching staff).  Strengths for the Murphy Bulldogs include a considerable size line that is agile; a number of good running backs; and a balanced defense.  We won’t know the true areas of strength and weaknesses for the Bulldogs until we go to Boone on Friday (August 12) and have a scrimmage with Watauga High Pioneers and Ashe County Huskies in full contact.   The scrimmage will start at 6PM with Murphy facing Watauga first and the Ashe County in the second game.

Doing the quick analysis, Murphy may end up with a 7-and-3 record to finish the regular season.

Record Prediction: 7-3

Franklin (August 19) – The Panther travels to Murphy and give the Bulldogs some slight advantage playing at David Gentry Field/Bob Hendrix Stadium in the home games.  Franklin has lost a lot of offensive playmakers, including its quarterback, a running back, and wide receivers.  A considerable number of line were also lost to graduation.  Some rebuilding time for the Panthers.

Commerce (GA) (August 26) – Not as much known right now about the Tigers.  They finished 6-and-5 on the season and not the best ranking for the team.  Always a slight disadvantage to travel a great distance.

South Pittsburgh (TN) (September 9) – Oh goodness this is the team that can run the score up on you.  They were 12-and-3 last year.  The Pirates can average 30-35 points on the opponent and allowing only 12 points scored on them.

Fannin County (GA) (September 16) – The Bulldogs are on the road again this week.  The Rebels went 10-and-2 on the season.  Like South Pittsburgh, Fannin County can run the score up. A good run game and a great defense, the Rebels are a total package.  They average 33 points per game and may allow the opponents to score 14.

New Faith Christian Academy (September 23) – A free lance football team that has some new beginnings.  Not a lot of information at this time.  It’s a road trip for the Titans.

Cherokee (September 30) – It’s homecoming and the start of the conference season for the Bulldogs.  Don’t lose the homecoming game.  This year as mentioned earlier the Braves will have a new quarterback in Kaden “Tso” Smith.  Pepion, Calhoun, Driver, and Bradley, the offensive stars are a little older and more seasoned.  Look for a new Cherokee team that is still upset about a close game at Ray Kinsland Stadium last year.

Hayesville (October 7) – Bulldogs will make the short ride to Hayesville and challenge the Yellow Jackets.  Logan Caldwell will call the signals to a young but more experienced team.  Big man Jake McTaggert has been lost to graduation and the UNC-Charlotte 49ers.  Kyle Lunsford may be a man to watch to hold the Yellow Jackets together.  Murphy defeated Hayesville 56-to-14 last year and that could be a similar score.

Robbinsville (October 14) – Under the Big Oaks is where this game will be played.  Give a little weight to the Black Knights for playing in Robbinsville.  Don’t kid yourself about this game.  A few people like Dasan Gross, Isaac Wiggins, and Carlos Wesley are gone to graduation.  The (unrelated) Adams Boys (Cutler and Brock), Kage Williams, and a sizable number of the linemen are back. Even if Williams is not yet back from injury, Murphy does not typically play well in Graham County. The Robbinsville Black Knights had trouble scoring this week against Tuscola in scrimmage.  Both teams did not score during their Haywood County meeting.  This will be a tough one.

Swain County (October 21) – Senior night and the Devils are in the house.  They have a new coach, Sherman Holt, who was an offensive coordinator at Tuscola High and played football at Appalachian State in 2007 as a red-shirt freshman on the National Championship team.  Swain still has a seasoned quarterback in Gabe Lillard that knows how to make a few plays but lost his favorite targets in Donnavin Groenewold and Cooper Hyatt.  This may be a year to rebuild for Swain.

Andrews (October 28) – It will be tough to beat the Wildcats with Donovan Bateman throwing the heat and Isaac Weaver running the ball.  Andrews will be ready for the Bulldogs.  I give a slight advantage to the Murphy Bulldogs playing at home and having a chip on their shoulder for losing last year in Andrews.


Leave a comment

Back to Top