Fans Look Forward to a Tough Contest Between the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets
By Brandon Stephens
(Murphy) – – This Smoky Mountain Conference opener does not present any easy path to the next game. If it’s anything like the 2022 meeting in Hayesville, fans that go to the game and pay admission will get their money’s worth. Last season there were almost 30 penalties, a few fumbles and miscues on each side that kept the offensive momentum floating back and forth from Murphy and Hayesville, both entering the game 4-and-1 through the non-conference portion of their season. The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets have had relatively good games with their non-conference opponents with a few outliers. Murphy has thumped its opponents by a margin of 23 points and fell hard to Commerce (GA) 56-to-13. Hayesville has held off challengers by an average of 35 points and took a 32-to7 loss to Pisgah.
Hayesville will be led by Senior Running Back Taylor McClure and Sophomore Running Back Tre Graves. Both have more than 400 yards of all purpose offensive yards and average 85 yards per game. They have tallied seven touchdowns each this season. Watch for an occasional hand off to Michael Mauney and Cole Vining who average 7 to 8 yards per carry and have hauled the ball into touchdown town twice each this season. The Hayesville line is not the biggest set of players you will see this season. They can open the holes for their runners to move. Defensively the Yellow Jackets can swarm and hurry the quarterback. Passing has not been the choice play for Hayesville. Tate Roberts has completed slightly more than 50% of attempted passes for 168 yards. Overall Hayesville has thrown the ball 33 times in 5 games completing 17 passes, with one touchdown play to Isaac Chandler.
The Hayesville defensive set is typical for Smoky Mountain Conference play. The Yellow Jackets are expected to be in a 43 set and show a cover 3. Dawson DeVane and Lane O’Dell will probably be some of the bigger play makers defensively.
The final standout weapon for Hayesville will be special teams. Isaac Chandler has been able to nail field goals. One of Chandlers best came a few weeks ago against New Faith Christian Academy when he parked a 44-yard Field goal.
Murphy’s Hunter Stalcup is still the player to watch in this contest. Stalcup has racked up nearly 800 yards in all-purpose offensive yards. That breaks down to 544 yards rushing and 249 on 11 receptions, four of which were touchdowns. The Rhinestone Cowboy has also rushed for 10 touchdowns. Freshman Cameron Clem is averaging 7 yards per carry to roll up 323 yards rushing per game and a couple of touchdowns.
The Murphy passing game has emerged and resulted in some good plays. Sophomore Quarterback Brady Grant has completed 28 of 65 passes (43%) and tallied 10 touchdowns. Grant’s targets have not always been Stalcup. He has recently connected with Sophomore Ryan Payne, Junior Kenyon Nichols, Seniors Trenton Russell and Zach Skogen, and Junior Will Shore. The average pass is picking up 7.5 yards per completion.
The Murphy spectators have come to their feet with a few of these same people making stops and plays on defense. Recently Payne and Shore picked off passes at critical points in the game to give the Bulldogs new momentum. Linebackers Brody Orton, Will Joyner, and Hunter Stalcup have kept opponents honest is not hurried. From the line Kadence Leatherwood, Ricky Queen, and Charlie Graves have had more than their fair share of tackles and sacks.
The weak spot for Murphy may be the special teams. Special team players have allowed some big plays, especially on kick-off returns by the opponent.
The overall report card for both teams is good at this point in the season. Both teams are relatively healthy and ready for this part of the season to begin. This game will be won in the trenches. Hayesville will need to play good assignment football and watch for the threatening pass as well as plug the holes. Murphy will need to key on Taylor McClure.
From the offensive standpoint the Murphy Bulldogs Quarterback Brady Grant offers a few comments.
The conference season presents new yet recognizable challenges. The Hayesville Yellow Jackets are operating in a Wing-T Offense, which should be familiar to Bulldog Defenders. Kadence Leatherwood gives his thoughts on how Murphy has progressed defensively this season.
Three seasons face each team generally. They work through a non-conference, conference, and play-off season. Murphy Head Football Coach Joseph Watson says it’s not too bad to be 4-and-1 for any team at this point in the season.
The Murphy Bulldogs are hosting the Hayesville Yellow Jackets at Bob Hendrix Stadium/David Gentry Field Friday (September 29th) at 7:30. Stay in touch with Team FYN Sports for score updates and a post-game review.