2022 TeamFYNSports Smoky Mountain Conference Football Media Awards & All SMC TeamsSports, Team FYN Sports December 12, 2022
2022 was a year to remember for the Smoky Mountain Conference on the Gridiron. From Andrews historic undefeated regular season, to Hayesville advancing to the third round of the playoff since 2013, to all 6 conference teams securing a first-round playoff victory, the parity in the Conference this year was unlike any other in recent memory.
It was an amazing year for all of our SMC teams, as the historic conference etched another unprecedented year into the history books. Here’s a look at what individuals stood out the most in 2022, as we present our 2022 FYN Sports Football Awards.
Our awards are made up of a 60-40 vote split between the public and the local media, while the All-Conference teams are compiled by the FYNSports Staff.
Coach of The Year: James Phillips, Andrews
An obvious choice here, Phillips led Andrews to their best season in decades with a 13-1 finish in the fourth round of the State Playoffs. Not only did the Wildcats have a stunning year, but Phillips ran an efficient practice, maintained a well-disciplined team, and is a great role model for the youth at Andrews High School. Coach Phillips also managed to put together an incredible staff that allowed these kids to reach their full potential and play at the top of their game. Hats off to Coach Phillips and the Andrews Wildcats on an amazing season.
Player of The Year: Isaac Weaver, Andrews, Sr.
Isaac Weaver will go down as one of the best to ever put on an Andrews Wildcat jersey. This season would not have happened for The Valley if it hadn’t been for #7. He was electric to watch make things happen on offense and made quarterbacks think twice before throwing his way when he dropped back into coverage. Isaac rushed for over 1,500 yards, was second in all of North Carolina with 10 interceptions, and was consistently in the endzone with 31 total touchdowns (all while playing 6 weeks with a cast on his broken right hand). When the ball was in his hands, whether that be due to receiving a handoff, intercepting a pass, or returning a kick, Weaver had the whole stadium on the edge of their seats because everyone knew he could go for 6 at any time. Isaac made everyone around him better, and was a fan favorite across the league, making him our unanimous FYNSports Player of The Year for 2022. An outstanding player and an even better young man, we can’t wait to see where football takes #7 in the near future.
Athlete of The Year: Hunter Stalcup, Murphy, Jr.
The Athlete of The Year is someone who shoulders the load for their team across all aspects of the game. Stalcup finished his Junior season ranked 7th in North Carolina in rush yards, 9th in North Carolina in points scored, and 11th in North Carolina in rush yards per game. Making those accomplishments even more impressive, he didn’t even enter the season as the Dogs RB1, as he took over that role when his running mate Ty Laney went down due to injury in game three. In 10 of his 13 games played this year, Stalcup rushed for over 100 yards and finished the year on a streak of 8 straight 100-yard rushing games. While rushing for 2,204 yards, Hunter also made contributions in the passing game as well, as he hauled in 24 receptions for 315 yards and 7 touchdowns, to bring his touchdown total to 31. Hunter also handled the punt return and kick return duties for Murphy as well, averaging over 20 yards per return.
Offensive Player of The Year: Cuttler Adams, Robbinsville, Jr.
Numbers never lie, and Cuttler Adams has been putting up numbers since he was a freshman. He added 2,202 rushing yards to his career total in his Junior season, propelling him to fourth all-time in the Smoky Mountain Conference. Due to injuries in the Robbinsville backfield before the season ever began, Cuttler was poised to be more of the Black Knights workhorse than ever before. He rushed the ball 275 times for an average of 8 yards per carry and accounted for nearly 60% of the Knights total points scored. Maybe more so impressive than the raw numbers, Cuttler headed up an offense that suffered through multiple injuries -including the loss of their starting QB- and kept them on track for a 9-4 season and an appearance in the third round of the NCHSAA State Playoffs. Cuttler was the straw that stirred the drink on this Robbinsville team and kept things going when it was looking pretty grim. Another special year for a special player, this guy will be at the top of the record books when it’s all said and done.
Defensive Player of The Year: Luke Climbingbear, Cherokee, Jr.
Climbingbear led the Smoky Mountain Conference in tackles from the Defensive End position. He kept points off the board and gave a struggling Cherokee offense opportunities to get back on the field and stay in games all season long. He averaged 12 tackles per game thanks to his ability to read multiple offensive schemes, and always found a way to be around the football. In two years of Varsity action, Climbingbear has accumulated 230 total tackles as the leader of the Braves defensive front. Anchoring a defense that was on the field a lot in 2022, Climbingbear made the most of his opportunities.
Lineman of The Year: Mason Thrasher, Murphy, Sr.
Mason Thrasher was a nightmare for opposing offenses in 2022. He always found himself in the backfield and made quick work of whoever was in front of him. He had TWENTY-FOUR tackles for loss on the year, easily putting him in first for that category in the SMC. Thrasher averaged over 6 tackles per game, and was the heartbeat of a Murphy defense that allowed less than 20 points per game in Conference play.
Newcomer of The Year: Bryce Adams, Robbinsville, So.
No first-year Varsity player was asked to do more for their team this season than Bryce Adams was. By the time the season ended, not only was he leading the Knights defense from the linebacker position, but he was also calling the shots on the offensive side of the ball as he stepped under center in relief of injured starting QB Donovan Carpenter. Bryce stepped in seamlessly and led the Knights to the third round of the State Playoffs while throwing for over 500 yards and 5 TDs along the way. He also finished the year strong on the defensive side of the ball, finishing second in tackles for Robbinsville with 77.
QB – Cole Laney, Murphy, Sr.
QB – Logan Caldwell, Hayesville, Sr.
RB – Isaac Weaver, Andrews, Sr.
RB – Hunter Stalcup, Murphy, Jr.
RB – Cuttler Adams, Robbinsville, Jr.
WR – Cole Anderson, Andrews, Sr.
WR – Cameron Grooms, Murphy, Sr.
WR – Brock Adams, Robbinsville, Sr.
TE – Avery Leatherwood, Hayesville, Sr.
OL – Drew Martin, Andrews, Sr.
OL – Tytan Teesateskie, Robbinsville, So.
OL – Lane O’Dell, Hayesville, Jr.
OL – Carlos Lopez, Robbinsville, Sr..
OL – Jonathan Hamby, Murphy, Sr.
OL – Nolan Fisher, Swain, Jr.
ATH – Taylor McClure, Hayesville, Jr.
DL – Mason Thrasher, Murphy, Sr.
DL – Nathan Bogdanowicz, Swain, Sr.
DL – Kensen Davis, Cherokee, Sr.
DL – Dalton Rose, Andrews, Jr.
DL – Luke Climbingbear, Cherokee, Jr.
LB – John Ledford, Murphy, Sr.
LB – Mato Grant, Cherokee, Jr.
LB – Blake Sain, Swain, Sr.
LB – Austin Martin, Andrews, Sr.
DB – Taylor McClure, Hayesville, Jr.
DB – Isaac Weaver, Andrews, Sr.
DB – Donovan Bateman, Andrews, Sr.
DB – Joshua Collins, Swain, Jr.
QB – Donovan Bateman, Andrews, Sr.
QB – Kaden Smith, Cherokee, Sr.
RB – Austin Martin, Andrews, Sr.
RB – Chase Calhoun, Cherokee, Jr.
RB – Joshua Collins, Swain, Jr.
WR – Kaden Trantham, Cherokee, Sr.
WR – Josiah Glaspie, Swain, Jr.
TE -Kyle Lunsford, Hayesville, Sr.
OL – Tyler West, Andrews, Jr.
OL – Taylor Waldroup, Andrews, Sr.
OL – Jeremy Graves, Hayesville, Sr.
OL – Hayden Key, Robbinsville, Sr.
OL – Jeremiah Dickey, Murphy, Sr.
OL – Kolson Dooley, Robbinsville, Jr.
ATH – Roman Jones, Robbinsville, So.
DL – Kyle Willard, Murphy, Sr.
DL – Xavier Otter, Cherokee, Sr.
DL – Landon Greene, Andrews, So.
DL – Brayden Killian, Murphy, So.
DL – Avery Leatherwood, Hayesville, Sr.
LB – Kadence Leatherwood, Murphy, So.
LB – Quinn Jumper, Robbinsville, So.
LB – Bryce Adams, Robbinsville, So.
LB – Drew Martin, Andrews, Sr.
DB – Hunter Stalcup, Murphy, Jr.
DB – Michael Mauney, Hayesville, So.
DB – Cole Anderson, Andrews, Sr.
DB – Cuttler Adams, Robbinsville, Jr.
All-Conference Coaches Selections Announced For SMCTeam FYN Sports December 2, 2022
Below are the 2022-2023 All-Conference selections as voted on by the Smoky Mountain Conference coaches.
1. Andrews 5-0
2. Murphy 4-1
3. Robbinsville 3-2
4. Cherokee 1-4
5. Hayesville 1-4
6. Swain 1-4
BACK OF THE YEAR:
ISAAC WEAVER (Andrews) & CUTTLER ADAMS (Robbinsville)
LINEMAN OF THE YEAR:
DREW MARTIN (Andrews)
COACH OF THE YEAR:
JAMES PHILLIPS (Andrews)
Smoky Mountain Conference First Round Playoff PreviewBusiness, Team FYN Sports November 3, 2022
Feature photo from Haley’s Photography
Smoky Mountain Conference- All 6 teams in the SMC are playoff bound, with 5 of the 6 hosting home playoff games this Friday. Let’s take a look at these matchups and see which teams have the best chance to make it to round two.
Playoff Outlook- The only unbeaten team in all of 1A football, the Andrews Wildcats somehow were shafted into the 2 seed behind Eastern Randolph. Nonetheless, the Wildcats have a pretty favorable (or at least familiar?) quadrant of the bracket in this year’s playoffs. The Wildcats will be guaranteed home-field advantage for 4 out of the 5 rounds before the State Championship game, starting this Friday night vs Highland Tech. If they can skirt through the first two rounds, things will get interesting for the Cats, as they could start seeing some familiar faces. If all things go well for both teams, we should see a rematch of the SMC championship game in round three as the Murphy Bulldogs would come to Valley Town for the first time in recent memory in the playoffs. The winner of the potential Andrews-Murphy game could go on to face another familiar opponent in the Mitchell Mountaineers.
While the Wildcats surely don’t have the smoothest path to the state championship, they will leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that they are the top team in the West if they can make it there.
First Round vs Highland Tech- Highland Tech will come into Friday night’s contest as the 31st and final team to accept their 2022 playoff bid. The Rams have yet to win a game this season and are a complete opposite reflection of the Wildcats as they sit at 0-10 on the year. The Rams will be led by Seniors Kamari Sheppard and Camron Newman out of the backfield, but I doubt either will be able to get much going vs the Andrews D the smothered Murphy in last week’s contest. Highland Tech has scored a total of 48 points over 10 games this year, while Andrews has scored 40 or more in 8 of their ten games this year.
Look for the Andrews starters to get pulled early, as the final score to this one will be whatever James Phillips and company want it to be.
Prediction- Andrews 49 Highland Tech 0
Playoff Outlook- Last week’s home loss to Swain hurt the Brave’s chances of hosting a playoff game significantly, and now they find themselves having to go on the road for round one. If the Braves can pull off the round one upset, however, things could get interesting in round 2 as they would head to Big Oaks stadium to face the Robbinsville Black Knights.
First Round vs Starmount- Cherokee will face a tough, but beatable, Starmount Rams team on the road in round one of the NCHSAA State Playoffs. Being on the road will make it tougher for the Braves to pull off the upset, but if they can establish that run game and Tso Smith plays like he has the previous three outings, then the Braves just might come home victorious. Their sloppy play through the first few weeks of the season put them behind the eight-ball in terms of playoff seeding, but there are definitely worse spots to be in. The Braves D Line will be put to the test as they go up against Starmount’s 1500-yard rusher in Zack Dezern. The Rams are 1-2 however in games where Dezern has been held under 100 rushing yards, so if Luke Climbingbear and Xavier Otter can stand tall then Cherokee should be in this game for all 48 minutes.
Prediction- Starmount 35 Cherokee 28
Playoff Outlook- The Yellow Jackets will be hosting a home playoff game for the first time since 2019, and will look to secure their first playoff victory since 2016. Their stellar start to the season along with their road win over Swain County gave the Jackets the number 12 seed in the NCHSAA Playoffs. The Jackets have a very favorable bracket quadrant, and I could see them advancing to round three if they play well. Round one will be against a decent Alleghany team, and if things go well in that one they will travel to perhaps the most overrated top 5 seed, Christ The King (that is if the Crusaders make it out of round 1). CTK is 8 and 2 overall, but they haven’t looked very special this year as they play in a very soft football conference.
First Round vs Alleghany- As mentioned earlier, Hayesville is looking at a chance to get a playoff win for the first time since 2016, and I believe they will do just that. Alleghany comes into Friday night’s matchup as the 21 seed and 3-7 overall. Their most impressive outing of the season actually came in a loss vs Starmount where they held the Rams to only 14 points but were unable to find the endzone offensively. The Trojans are getting outscored by opponents 279-194, and with the way the Hayesville D has played this year, I think the Jackets should be favored in this matchup. They will however have to keep their eyes on the Trojan’s two-headed monster in the backfield, as Junior running back Lemasters and Proffit have accrued over 1500 rushing yards between the two.
Prediction- Hayesville 21 Alleghany 7
Playoff Outlook- Last week’s loss to Andrews didn’t do the Bulldogs any favors when it comes to playoff seeding, but luckily for the Dogs if they’re able to get things rolling they should see the first three playoff games pretty close to home. Rounds 1 and 2 will be at home for sure, and round three looks like it will shape up to be just a 15-minute drive down the road to Andrews where the Dogs could avenge last week’s loss to the Cats. Round one will be against a familiar playoff opponent for the Dogs over the years in the Albemarle Bulldogs, while round two will be against a tough East Wilkes team. That possible third-round matchup with Andrews will be on everyone’s mind, but the Dogs will have to stay focused in order to get there as their projected second-round opponent is no slouch.
First Round vs Albemarle- Murphy and Albemarle have had some instant classic games over the previous 10-15 years. Both Dogs have knocked the other out of the playoffs and kept them from adding to their state championship total. This year’s matchup could be another good one, depending on which team shows up. For Albemarle, just like Murphy, this year has been one of ups and downs. In the opening game of the season, Albemarle impressively held now 9-1 Thomasville to only 14 points in a game where they lost 14-0, then turned around and lost four of their next five games. The 26-seeded Bulldogs come into the game vs the 7-seeded Murphy Bulldogs with a 3 and 7 overall record, but they’ve got some playmakers on both sides of the ball. The Murphy defensive secondary will be tested, as Albemarle has thrown for over 1500 yards on the year. On the offensive side of the ball for Murphy, all eyes will be on QB Cole Laney. Laney will be pressured all night by an Albemarle defense that has 18 sacks so far this year, so it will be interesting to see how Cole and the offensive line rebounds from last week’s performance.
Prediction- Murphy 28 Albemarle 14
Playoff Outlook- The Black Knights win on the road over Hayesville last week earned them the number eight seed in the 1A state playoffs. If they want to make a run at another Western Regional championship game, they’ll have some pretty tough matchups along the way. Round one will open up at home vs Cherryville, and round two will see either the Cherokee Braves or the Starmount Rams come to town. Then, things will get difficult for the Knights. In round three they will have to go on the road to face #1 overall seed Eastern Randolph, which will be one of the longest bus rides any team will have to make the playoffs. If the Knights are able to get past ER, they will then have to travel to Mount Airy the next week to face the Granite Bears, just to have a chance at playing in the Western Regional title game. The Knights are no stranger to tough playoff runs, however, and who’s to say they can’t do it again?
First Round vs Cherryville- The Cherryville Ironmen will come into Big Oaks Stadium on Friday night boasting a 3-7 overall record. The Ironmen have been less than impressive this year, having lost 6 of their last 7 games, including a 38-0 loss to East Gaston (a team who fellow SMC member Cherokee held to just 13 points). Cherryville does not have any stats listed on MaxPreps, so it’s hard to get a read on the type of team they are, but one thing is for certain: They give up a ton of points. The Ironmen are giving up an average of 35 points per game this year and gave up over 200 yards on the ground in their last time out on the field. Cuttler Adams should have a field day in this one.
Prediction- Robbinsville 42 Cherryville 14
Playoff Outlook-During halftime of last week’s game vs Cherokee it was looking like the Maroon Devils would go winless in conference play for the first time in forever. 24 minutes later, Swain County was able to pull out the win and found themselves hosting a home playoff game in Bryson City. The tradition and history of Swain County at home in the playoffs is something that can not go unnoticed, and the Maroon Devils will look to continue that winning tradition this year. As far as their seeding is concerned, I think realistically we could see the Maroon Devils in round three. They’ll have to fight through a scrappy Winston-Salem Prep team and a tough Thomasville team to get there, but all in all the Maroon Devils got a pretty good draw, considering it looked like they were going to end the year with a 6 game-losing skid.
First Round vs Winston Salem Prep- The Phoenix are no stranger to SMC teams as this makes the third year in a row they will face someone from our conference in the playoffs. This year, their resume is not one to write home about. While they do have three wins on the year, their losses have been pretty bad ones. They are not a team that can score a lot of points offensively as we have seen in the past (definitely not the same team that put up 40 points on Robbinsville in 2020), and that bodes well for Swain who has had their own struggles on the offensive side of the ball this year. If Reese Winchester can play mistake-free football like he did last week and the Maroon Machine can stay away from the turnover bug, then they should roll in this one.
Prediction- Swain 31 Winston Salem Prep 14
Smoky Mountain Conference Preseason Power Rankings, All-Conference Team, POY Awards, and More….Sports, Team FYN Sports, TeamFYNSports August 11, 2022
It’s about that time! We are only a handful of days away from seeing our favorite teams from the top conference in the state of North Carolina put toe to rubber and officially kick off the 2022 football season. This year is shaping up to be one of the most competitive season’s from top to bottom in the Smoky Mountain Conference that we’ve seen in recent memory. Let’s take a look at some predictions, some note-worthy games, and some players to watch as the season unfolds.
FYN SPORTS SMC PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
Maybe the hardest preseason predictions I have ever had to make. There are a ton of unknowns heading into the 2022 season. What will Swain County look like with Sherman Holt at the helm? How does Cherokee replace a superstar like Donald Bradley? Can Andrews stay healthy enough to make a deep run? How does Robbinsville handle their third Quarterback change in as many seasons?
Even with all of those questions, you can get a good idea about how good a team will be by looking at who they’re bringing back, and that’s the number 1 reason why Robbinsville sits at the top of this list.
Record Prediction: 8-2
Robbinsville returns 5 offensive starters and 5 defensive starters from last year’s Western Regional Championship runner-up team, and they also get at least one more year of Head Coach Dee Walsh at the helm. With all of the coaching changes that have happened in the SMC in the last few years, having Walsh return for his 18th year gives Robbinsville a bit of an edge from the jump, and a very good chance at making it 4 SMC Titles in a row.
Cuttler Adams was last years FYN Sports Player Of The Year for a reason, and he should put up even better numbers this year. The do-it-all back rushed for over 2,000 yards and accounted for over 30 touchdowns, even while missing some time due to injury. With his running mate Kage Williams still recovering from shoulder surgery, Adams workload will increase even more in 2022. Williams will be sorely missed on the defensive side of the ball, and that could be the only hole the Knights have to fill heading into the new season. Obviously they will be working with their 3rd starting quarterback in as many seasons, but from what I’ve heard this summer, Donovan Carpenter should slide in and fill that role nicely.
Record Prediction: 8-2
One could make a very valid argument that Andrews should be favored to win the conference this year as they return all but 1 starter from last year’s team. The main problem I have with putting Andrews in the number 1 spot, is the same problem that’s always surrounded Andrews. Their depth. Being one of the smallest schools in 1A football, Andrews fields a team of about 20-25 kids. This year’s numbers could go up given their recent success, but it’s still a concern as to whether or not they can remain fully healthy for all 10 regular season games. Andrews showed they were building something special last season, and if they are able to keep their main core healthy heading into their final two games of the season against Robbinsville and Murphy, they may very well find themselves at the top of this list when it’s all said and done.
Isaac Weaver and Austin Martin will account for most of the Cat’s offense in 2022 just as they did in 2021, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Head Coach James Phillips gives his quarterback, Donovan Bateman, some opportunities to put the ball in the air. The Wildcats have some solid receivers returning, and if they can threaten to hurt you through the air even a little bit, they will be a tough out for most teams this Fall.
Record Prediction: 7-3
The Dogs will enter into their second year with Head Coach Joseph Watson at the helm, and he and his staff will have their toughest challenge yet. Although they return 8 defensive starters, they have some huge holes to fill in the defensive backfield. Juan Allen and Payton McCracken were perhaps the best DB duo the SMC has seen in a while, and they won’t be easily replaced. Luckily for Murphy, they return most of their “Big Dawgs” upfront on the Oline and Dline. That, along with a solid core of running backs in Ty Laney, Hunter Stalcup, and John Ledford, should help them claw their way back in the mix at the top of the SMC once again.
Cole Laney will take over the reigns as starting quarterback for the Black and Gold, and he has shown a lot of promise this summer. Cole has earned the trust of his teammates and they back him 100%, which says a lot about the type of leader he is. Cole has the arm to help the Dogs get it done this year, and it will be interesting to see who emerges as his top target.
Record Prediction: 6-4
The Yellow Jackets bring back maybe the top quarterback in the conference in Logan Caldwell, and luckily for the rising Senior his top 2 receivers from last season return alongside him. Kyle Lunsford and Taylor McClure combined for over 1,200 of Caldwell’s 2,302 passing yards last year, and the trio will look to maintain that same connection in 2022. Offense hasn’t necessarily been the reason for the Jackets struggles as of late however, as they gave up a whopping 35 points per game last year. As Senior Avery Leatherwood returns from injury, perhaps he and Taylor McClure can help sure up an otherwise shaky defense.
Another year of experience, a favorable non-conference schedule, and perhaps the best line the Hive has seen in years, should make for a fun season for Yellow Jacket fans.
Record Prediction: 5-5
Swain County fans may have a heart attack when they look down on the field opening night and see the Devils in a Spread offense instead of the trusty Veer they’ve seen for so long. With Sherman Holt taking over the reigns as Head Coach and coming from a program that liked to throw the ball around, most expect the Maroon Devils to move toward a more pass heavy offense. It seems like Swain has the athletes to make it work, but it’s also going to be a heck of a learning curve for a team returning 6 offensive starters. There’s just too much unknown to put the Maroon Machine any higher than 5th in the preseason rankings, but that’s not to say they won’t climb if they’re able to emulate the high powered offense that Coach Holt expects from his teams.
Record Prediction: 4-6
It’s hard to imagine a Cherokee Braves team without Donald Bradley. He’s been the center piece of their offense for what seems like forever. The impact Bradley had on the game when the ball was in his hands can’t be replicated, but the next guy in line in Kaden “Tso” Smith should do a pretty darn good job. Defense is where the Braves will struggle the most this season. Losing 4 of their top 5 tacklers to graduation, the Braves are going to have to rely heavily on Junior standout Luke Climbingbear to lead their defense. Even though it looks like they’ll be returning 7 starters on paper, the holes that are left seem to just be too big at the moment to put them any higher than 6TH.
PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
No individual player on any other team in the conference makes the impact that Cuttler does with the Knights. He’s runs with authority when he’s carrying the rock, and he makes opposing QBs think twice before throwing his way when he’s on defense. Adams has been in our Player of The Year conversation since his Freshman campaign, and I don’t expect things to change anytime soon.
PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Caldwell threw for over 2,300 yards last season as a Junior for the Jackets, and he returns for his Senior season looking to get closer to the ever elusive 3,000 yard mark. Caldwell’s top receiving targets return along with an improved line, which is a recipe for a “Heisman” type of year for Logan Caldwell.
PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Brock Adams is a lock in the defensive backfield. He hauled in 7 interceptions last season, and tacked on nearly 60 tackles to go along with it. Each year he’s been a starter, Adams statistics have increased in every category. Adams should shine this year as he steps into a leadership role as a Senior on a talented Black Knights team.
PRESEASON ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
The Swiss-Army Knife that is Isaac Weaver. Not only did he eclipse the 1,000 yard mark on the ground last year, he also led the team in touchdowns, receptions, receiving yards, and interceptions. Weaver is a dynamite player, and if he is able to stay healthy all year, he could cement himself as one of the greatest Wildcats to ever darken the halls of AHS.
Preseason All-Conference team-
Logan Caldwell, Hayesville
Donovan Bateman, Andrews
Isaac Weaver, Andrews
Ty Laney, Murphy
Austin Martin, Andrews
Cuttler Adams, Robbinsville
Wide Receiver/Tight End:
Will Johnson, Murphy
Kyle Lunsford, Hayesville
Brock Adams, Robbinsville
Carlos Lopez, Robbinsville
Lane O’Dell, Hayesville
Kyle Willard, Murphy
Mason Thrasher, Murphy
Nolan Fisher, Swain
Nathan Bogdanowicz, Swain
Dalton Rose, Andrews
Jeremy Graves, Hayesville
Luke Climbingbear, Cherokee
Drew Martin, Andrews
Ty Laney, Murphy
Kage Williams, Robbinsville*
Cuttler Adams, Robbinsville
Isaac Weaver, Andrews
Brock Adams, Robbinsville
Taylor McClure, Hayesville
TOP GAMES IN 2022-
Week 1- Murphy vs Franklin
Week 2- Swain vs Smoky Mountain
Week 3- Robbinsville vs Mountain Heritage
Mountain Heritage was
Week 4- Andrews @ Mitchell
Week 5- Hayesville vs Tuscola
Week 6- Robbinsville vs Alleghany
Week 7- Cherokee @ Murphy
Week 8- Swain @ Andrews
Week 9- Murphy @ Robbinsville
Week 10- Robbinsville @ Andrews
Week 11- Andrews @ Murphy
Murphy Bulldogs and Robbinsville Black Knights set to Battle Friday NightSports, Team FYN Sports, TeamFYNSports October 13, 2021
By Brandon Stephens
(Murphy) – – Nothing could be finer than having more points than your opponent in the game between Murphy and Robbinsville. The atmosphere would be so sweet like winning a conference crown, state championship, even a Super Bowl. The Bulldogs would continue to climb in the conference standings and work to shed a cloak of uncertainty about this Fall’s team being a good team. Robbinsville could earn its first conference win; break a losing streak; and gain some momentum to be more competitive. This game is going to have a lot more to offer the winner than community pride.
Preparations for the Murphy Bulldogs have been excellent. Murphy Head Coach Joseph Watson says, “It’s been nice to get back outside this week. Last week we were inside a couple of days. It was nice to have some good weather and have some up tempo and spirited practices. We are looking forward to the game Friday.”
Are there some take-aways Coach Watson saw with the Cherokee versus Robbinsville game last week? “We’ve played Cherokee and we know they are a good football team, and they are a physical football team. Robbinsville is the same way. They are a good physical football team as well. We are going to prepare for Robbinsville like we always do. We expect to have their (Robbinsville’s) best every time we play. They are going to be ready to play as well,” Watson added.
Robbinsville Black Knights
The Black Knight Offense has an I or Power-I formation look lead by Senior Quarterback Dasan Gross, who is surrounded by Sophomore Running Backs Kage Williams and Cuttler Adams. Published stats and previous game film indicates Adams is a very talented running back that has generated 852 yards of rushing on 112 carries, which averages almost 8 yards per rushing play. Fullback Cage Williams has carried the ball 63 times for 236 yards and averages 3.6 yards per carry.
The larger question is will Cuttler Adams play? Adams has experienced back problems and did not appear to have his usual fluid motion during last week’s Cherokee game. Cuttler is the Halfback that really makes the Robbinsville Offense go. Rumors from Robbinsville say he is questionable for playing in this week’s game. One person does not make an 11-man team, but compared to many teams in this region, Robbinsville really needs Cuttler Adams. My guess he will follow the legacy of many Black Knights that wanted to play through sickness and pain and will find a way to suit up and do battle with the Bulldogs. I am reminded of Kurt Odom (played late in the 2000 decade and later played at Campbell Camels) who would not miss a play-off game at Elkin and was sick with mononucleosis. That’s the spirit of the Black Knights.
The Black Knight Offense will live on counters and power motions. Buck sweeps and counters will fall right into Murphy’s hands. The offensive front line is led by Carlos Wesley (#56 – 6’0 260 lbs. Senior) and Senior Center Carson White (6’3 315lbs). Robbinsville Quarterback Dasan Gross has completed about 61 percent of his passes. Gross has completed 36 of 59 attempts to collect 487 yards on passes, which averages 13.5 yards per completion. His longest pass was 58 yards. When passing, the Black Knight tend to go for shorter screen passes that help simulate some speed in the backfield. Junior Receiver Brock Adams is the favored target for a pass. Brock has caught 25 passes for 343 yards in five games and averages about 13 yards on each reception. Based on the average, Robbinsville is passing the ball about 10 times per game and completing six attempts to move the Black Knights about 80 yards per contest.
The Robbinsville Defense will have a 4-4 look and play cover-3 in the secondary. One method of attack from the Black Knights may include bringing Senior End Eddie Brooms (#42) to an assignment position and play man on Murphy Quarterback Kellen Rumfelt. This is the role Brooms played in Cherokee. Look for Cuttler Adams and Kage Williams to also play at linebacker. Brock Adams will add some speed in the defensive secondary at Free Safety.
The 56-14 win over Hayesville provided a lot of exercise for the Murphy Bulldogs to build its Offensive bandwidth. The linemen played excellent and helped power Juan Allen and Hunter Stalcup to great performances over the Yellow Jackets and build team unity. Murphy is still powered by its run game. Until last week the Bulldogs relied heavily on Running Back Ty Laney, who leads the team with 666 yards on 82 carries and averages 8 yards per rush. On half of the touches, Juan Allen is averaging 11 yards on 41 carries for 465 yards on the season. Sophomore Hunter Stalcup proved he will be a future offensive leader when he racked up 178 yards against Hayesville on 7 carries (average 25 yards per play).
“Our blocking was good (in the Hayesville game). We are finally getting the trap down, which our tackle is doing great, he’s getting his block and we have just had open field to run through,” explained Murphy Running Back Hunter Stalcup. Moving from a freshman on the junior varsity team to varsity this year is more responsibility and work according to Stalcup, but he is doing the work he wants to do. With Robbinsville Hunter says its discipline. “We just have to keep doing the same thing we are doing. Eleven people to the ball every play. But they (Robbinsville) can run it up the middle. Our middle linebacker, Ty Laney, he knows how to fill the hole. We should be good there,” Stalcup explained. Hunter likes how the Bulldogs are developing this season.
Going to the pass, Murphy Quarterback Kellen Rumfelt has maintained a balanced attack going to the air with a 52 percent completion rate (43 completions on 83 attempts) to give Murphy 843 yards in passing this season and 120 yards per game. Payton McCracken remains the team pass reception leader with 380 yards receiving or about 55 yards per game. Key for the Murphy Bulldogs is the pass is not necessarily an offensive attack that is relied upon for advancing the ball between the goal lines. The Bulldogs usually strike gold for a touchdown on its pass attempts, which is about 20 percent of the time.
The Murphy Bulldogs are developing well and building to the team it wants to be says Quarterback Kellen Rumfelt. “Offensively we are on point all night. The starters didn’t have to play but two and a quarter of a quarter. We didn’t have to pass that much, and our line was on point. We feel like we have gotten better every week, especially since (playing) Franklin. We remind ourselves about how we played, and we try to look back on that game and never play like that again. We are just going to keep getting better,” Rumfelt said.
Murphy is averaging 41 points per game and limiting its opponent to 28 points.
Winning this game is priority for more than boasting a win over a rival
Getting the win over the opponent is going to be sweet. Building a position in the conference standing and keeping or building momentum to meet the next conference opponent may be more important. To face a few opponents in your future like Swain and Andrews, Murphy and Robbinsville may need a little more energy and boost in addition to figuring out the game plan. A win for either team Friday will provide the medicine needed to play the last two conference games of the season. Swain County and Andrews have found some new life in their season or like the Wildcats having a near perfect season, until last week. There are no more “give-me” games in the Smoky Mountain Conference. Don’t overlook Cherokee; Swain County is not a pushover; and Andrews will run the ball down your throat. Swain County may be worn out by the last game as it will host Murphy on October 22; travel to Robbinsville on Tuesday, October 26; and finish the regular season hosting Cherokee on Friday, October 29th. That’s three games in seven days. Does all of that really matter, because in the southern mountains of western North Carolina we live on football. “In the Smoky Mountain Conference, you are going to have a tough game every week and especially this year, which is pretty tough conference, and it usually is. We take one game at a time and our next game is the most important game. You have to win that one to get to the next one,” Coach Watson states.
Murphy hosts Robbinsville Friday night, October 15, 2021, at 7:30 at Bob Hendrix Stadium/David Gentry Field. Stay connected to Team FYN Sports for updates, interviews, and analysis of the game.