Bulldog Defense Key to 21-to-14 Win – Here Comes the Payne
By Brandon Stephens
(Murphy) – – Murphy Free Safety/Wide Receiver Ryan Payne is the cornerstone of the (Murphy) Bulldogs, 3-1, defense that held off the Fannin County (GA) 2-2 in a close 21-to-14 win over the Rebels. The first half of the game did not produce the offense Murphy had hoped for as Fannin County dialed in on Bulldog Senior Running Back Hunter Stalcup to stifle any hopes for big plays and scoring. Rebel front linemen Watkins, Holsonback, Stephens, and a host of other defenders held Stalcup at home and limited the Murphy ground game. A few factors fed the Murphy win, which were switching to screen passes to Stalcup; running Freshman Cameron Clem; and three interceptions from Ryan Payne. Payne picked off the ball three times and stopped the Rebels from advancing and eventually set Stalcup up for a touchdown or two.
Fannin County’s initial possession is the tone setting series for the game. From this series, which was 7:14 long and covered 82 yards to Touchdown Town, the Rebels established their offensive momentum. Fannin County missed the Point After Touchdown kick (PAT). It appeared Fannin County may be an offensive threat the Bulldogs would have lots of trouble stopping, and they did. The next 16 minutes of play relied heavily on Murphy’s defense to stop Fannin County’s drives. Bulldog defenders Brody Orton, Charlie Graves, Kadence Leatherwood, and Ryan Payne worked diligently to stop Rebel running back Carson Callihan and Quarterback Lawson Sullivan, who made up many run plays. Caging these two runners didn’t always result in a loss of yards in most cases. Sullivan periodically found Junior Wide Receiver Brayden Taylor to get the ball past the first down marker. With :36.8 seconds left in the first half; Hunter Stalcup ran for a 16-yard touchdown. Will Joyner nailed the PAT. Halftime score, Murphy 7 Fannin County 6.
Murphy won the opening coin toss and elected to defer possession to open the second half. The initial possession in the second half for Murphy ended with a punt. After melting the clock in the third quarter, Fannin County took the lead with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Brayden Taylor and scored a two-point conversion with Elijah Weaver. Murphy’s Ryan Payne turned his receiving skills to the offense and helped move the ball into position for Hunter Stalcup to polish off the third quarter with a 4-yard touchdown. Will Joyner tied the game by making the PAT. The Third Quarter ends Murphy 14 Fannin County 14.
Good offensive execution and clock management are critical for both teams to end with a win going into the fourth quarter. Fannin County looked like it might drill straight to the end zone on run that takes the Rebels to a goal line stand. After some setbacks and Sullivan being hurried by Murphy defenders Brody Orton, Kadence Leatherwood, and Will Joyner, the Rebels turn over ball close to mid-field, but still in Murphy territory. Murphy went through some scary plays trying to make first down and ended up at the Fannin County 22-yard line. With 6:11 left in the game, Murphy Quarterback Brady Grant launched a 22-yard pass play to Hunter “Rhinestone Cowboy” Stalcup for the final touchdown of the night. Will Joyner nailed the PAT. Some of the passes leading up to this final touchdown did not work between Grant and Stalcup. On this one, Grant threaded the needle. Final score; Murphy 21 Fannin County 14.
Fannin County was not a push over team and constantly threatened Murphy with another score. Game analysts could easily see where Fannin or Murphy could have had two more touchdowns depending on the possession. Sophomore Free Safety/Wide Receiver Ryan Payne describes the good defense put forth by Murphy.
The Murphy offensive scheme is known widely by opponents to rely on Senior Running Back Hunter Stalcup. Stalcup was stopped on the run. This was a case where Murphy almost had to open the run with a pass play or dish it off to Freshman Cameron Clem. Clem also had to be the next man up as Senior Running Back Trenton Russell popped his shoulder out of socket and left in the fourth quarter. It also meant a couple plays also featured Will Joyner in the backfield to fill a missing gap for Russell. Sophomore Quarterback Brady Grant talks about the Murphy offense and the lessons learned in the Fannin County game.
The road to the next few games will not get any easier for Murphy as conference is starting soon with Hayesville, Robbinsville, and Swain to open that part of the season. All three teams are winning and building their teams for what will be an interesting conference showdown. Murphy Head Coach Joseph Watson talks about the game and getting prepped for the Smoky Mountain Conference.
Fannin County will face Gordon Central’s Warriors this coming Friday (September 22) in Blue Ridge, GA. Gordon Central is looking for its first win of the season. The Warriors have not found the solid offense it wants. Quarterback Peyton Chastian has been completing more than 50 percent of his passes, the plays are not accumulating in the yards needed. Running backs Braxton Carnes and Brandon Thomas do most of the rushing plays. This game may not be as challenging as the Murphy game.
Murphy will face as similar team in New Faith Christian Academy (NFCA) Titans, who fell 56-to-6 against Hayesville. NFCA is 0-4 on the season and will look for its first win of the season.
Stay in touch with Team FYN Sports for more details on these games. Tune in for Inside the SMC (Smoky Mountain Conference) this coming Thursday night at 8PM.