Smoky Mountain Conference First Round Playoff Preview

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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.

 

Andrews

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

 

Cherokee

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

Swain County defenders take down the Cherokee ball carrier in last week’s 44-40 victory.

Hayesville

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

 

Murphy

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 

Robbinsville’s Carson Lovin tackles Murphy’s Trenton Russell

Robbinsville

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

 

Swain

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

Relive The Wildcats SMC Championship Win With This Free Replay

Team FYN Sports

Watch Andrews and Murphy battle it out for the Conference Championship here:

 

 

 

 

 

Murphy Bulldogs begin Smoky Mountain Conference Play with a Trip to Cherokee High

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Written by Brandon Stephens

 

Cherokee is a good team and winning the first conference game is IMPORTANT!

 

(Cherokee, NC) – – Conference play is underway for the Murphy Bulldogs (3-and-2) and most of the other Smoky Mountain Conference teams this coming Friday (October 1, 2021).  The Cherokee Braves will host the Bulldogs for the first of five conference games that will round out the second half of the season.  Murphy players, coaches, and fans remember the athletic ability of Braves Quarterback Donald Bradley, who can keep opponents guessing and moving.

You may get a feeling you are watching a young Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) when watching Donald Bradley move the Braves.  He is a great passer; makes good things happen for the Braves when he runs the ball; and will run some option.  Published reports show Bradley completes at least 50 percent of his passes, which make up about 80 percent of the Braves offensive strategy.  He leads the team in rushing.  One may think Cherokee has a one-man football team.  “There is more than just Donald Bradley.  He is a big part of it.  You’ve got to start with Donald Bradley.  They (Cherokee Braves) do an outstanding job on offense.  Their offensive line is big, as they always are.  They have a really good left tackle (Sam Bernhisel – 6’5 295 pounds),” Murphy Head Coach Joseph Watson explains.

Rosman being out of the conference this year, makes Cherokee one of the longer conference road trips the Bulldogs will make.  The long road trip is one thing, but the facilities at Cherokee are another, which includes a turf field.  That can give a difference “bounce” to the ball.  Coach Watson adds, “They (Cherokee) have great facilities.  The best in western North Carolina.  We have been lucky.  We have played on turf fields the last two weeks.  This kinda helps us out (going to Cherokee).  It’s always a fight (challenge) when you go over there to Cherokee.  We have to get out mind right.”

How does Cherokee Look?

Cherokee is a good passing team and will move on the rush when needed.  Braves Running Back Chase Calhoun and sometimes Sophomore Michael Driver will bust through the line on a trap or drive.  Otherwise, Donald Bradley will juke the opponent on a quarterback design run.  The strong side of the line is wherever Senior Sam Bernhisel is located, which is the left side.  He opens the door for the offensive attack.  Bradley alone averages 9 yards on a rush.  Bradley likes to light up the sky with a pass to Junior Receiver Bitiste Pepion or Sophomore Raymond Bradley.  For secondary defenders like Hunter Laney, the eyes are going to be on Bradley as this is the first thought when you mention Cherokee.  “Don Bradley really.  It’s because he is such a good player.  He runs it all night and is pretty dangerous.  He is good at running the ball and making decisions really quickly,” Murphy Defensive Back Hunter Laney explains.

Cherokee Braves defense will keep its opponents honest.  Braves will stack up in a 4-4 but will look like a “62” set and play cover 3.  That may open the door for a few more Kellen Rumfelt passes.   “They (Cherokee) like to run cover 3 (defense) and some man-to-man.  I think over all if we just play by our rules and do what we do, it will be a good outcome,” says Murphy Quarterback Kellen Rumfelt.  Rumfelt completed 6-of-11 passes this past Friday night against Union County.

Cherokee is 2-and-2 going into conference play with Murphy.  The Braves dropped its first game to Smoky Mountain High in Sylva, 41-to-13.  Cherokee bounced back with a 39-to-21 win over Avery County’s Vikings in game two.  Things went well as the Braves shut out North Georgia 42-to-nothing.  The most recent game was close for Cherokee in a 35-to-26 loss to East Gaston.  Cherokee is well coached by David Napert and supported with assistants Tim Hawkins (Former Head Coach at Smoky Mountain High), Matthew Maney and Langston Wood (who were outstanding players at Smoky Mountain and Cherokee respectively).  Craig Barker, and outstanding coach, rounds out the Braves leadership.

Goal:  Win the Smoky Mountain Conference

There are no pushovers this year in the Smoky Mountain Conference.  Each team seems to be lead with a good quarterback, strong line, and playbooks that wins games.  Beginning with the Cherokee game, every game is for the title.  “Everything counts this time of year.  Conference games are going to be super important for play off seeding.  This conference is as strong as it has ever been in a long time,” stated Coach Watson.  COVID-19 still haunts some of the teams.  This weekend, Robbinsville and Swain County were going to play under the Big Oaks.  Health protocols forced the Maroon Devils to hold off playing the Black Knights.  Missing a game or two in the conference portion of the season will definitely make each game uber important.

Cherokee versus Murphy

The game will kick off at 7:30 PM Friday night (October 1, 2021).  Stay connected to Team FYN Sports for updates on the game and post-game comment.

Murphy Bulldog Football Team Travels to Union County High Friday Night

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Bulldogs reunite on the field with Coach Thomas Nelson

 

Written by Brandon Stephens

 

(Blairsville, Ga) – – Murphy Bulldogs have been eyeing this week’s football game for a few months or since Thomas Nelson announced he would take a job with Union County High, a well-deserved opportunity.  Irony was thick this past Sunday when Murphy held its Championship Ring Ceremony at Shepherd of the Mountain’s Church.  During the ceremony a central presentation honoring legendary Head Football Coach David Gentry was made by Coach Nelson.  Who would have thought Coach Nelson would return for the ceremony to praise a team that he will lead the Union County High Panther Defense against.  “Well, I will end my presentation by saying Go Bulldogs, just not this coming Friday,” Coach Nelson jested at the ceremony.

The drama of meeting up with Coach Thomas Nelson at Union County High presents a real challenge.  However, the challenges may be balanced.  From the film you can access on Max Preps or YouTube, the 4-3 defensive stack and technique is similar to Coach Nelson used at Murphy.  Turning the tables, Coach Nelson is keenly aware of the Murphy Offense.  This probably means Friday’s game will weigh heavily on the passion, tempo, good execution, and physical contact the players show on the field.  “That’s pretty accurate.  He (Thomas Nelson) knows a lot about us, we know a lot about him. It is going to come down to execution offensively and do what we are suppose to do,” Murphy Head Football Coach Joseph Watson commented.

Don’t let the drama of getting to have Coach Nelson as an opponent overshadow the skills and ability of the Union County Panthers.  This is a game Murphy has been waiting to play for approximately 10 years.  This game has great importance to Murphy because it can either lead the Bulldogs into conference play next week with Cherokee High (Cherokee Indian Reservation) on an up note or on a flat feeling.  “We try to be undefeated going into the conference (portion of the season).  Our grade is probably a C.  You never want to end up .500 going into the conference season.  The players are getting better, and they are playing hard.  We are proud about their effort,” Coach Watson added.

When you think of Union County Panthers what do you see?  “I think about it’s a school that is close to us.  A school that we have not been able to play in a couple of years, or a lot of years.  We’ve always wanted to get that game and glad we got that game.  This year you think about Thomas Nelson when you think about Union County Panthers.  He is doing an outstanding job coaching their defense,” Watson added.

How will Union County Panthers look?

The offense and defense from Union County are formations and plays we have witnessed for many games.  The Panthers Offense likes to spread the opponent out and launch a screen pass or run a dive up the middle.  Quarterback Logan Helcher likes to do a three-step quick effort to launch several bubble screens to receivers Griff Young and Keyton Chitwood.  According to published stats, Helcher is hitting more than 55% of his passes.  If the pass isn’t there, he can rush or send Halfback Cayleb Rogers.  This all sounds too familiar.  This offense will challenge the Murphy linebackers.  Ty Laney plays linebacker for the Murphy Bulldogs and explained what he expects from the Panthers.  “They are a passing team.  They have good athletes.  We are going to have to do our jobs and there can be no mistakes in this game.  They have a good quarterback, and we have to get to him,” Laney says.

Play for the Murphy Bulldogs is developing well in the trenches, which will be real important Friday.  Junior Lineman Mason Thrasher says, “We are getting more in sync with each other.  We are starting to hit harder I believe.  We are going to have to get on our man and stay fit with the linebackers.  Like any other game (as in Union County), let’s play hard; let’s play fast; and go hit them.”

Friday after the game with Cherokee High, Murphy Senior Quarterback Kellen Rumfelt said the team wasn’t ready for Union County.  After practice late this week, he believes the team is ready to take on the Panthers.  “I think we are definitely ready.  Obviously, we didn’t practice any for Union last week, but this week we have really been working hard and learning as much as we can about their team, and we know they are going to come out and give us a fight.  I know for sure we are ready,” Rumfelt explained.

The Union County Panthers are 0-and-3 on the season.  The losses were to Pickens 45-to-Seven last week; 41-to-28 against Chestatee; and 34-to-Seven against Fannin County.

See you on TV

The Murphy at Union County Game will be streamed this week on FYNTV.  The game will kick off in Blairsville at 7:30. Team FYN Sports Jake West and Brandon Stephens will bring the game to you.  Coverage begins at 7PM.  You can find the link at our Facebook page to see our live streaming coverage.

Murphy High Travels Long and Wins Big Against Cherokee High (TN) Chiefs

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Written by Brandon Stephens

(Rogersville, TN) – – The Murphy Bulldogs really stepped out on the field like rhinestone cowboys in their own star-spangled rodeo.  Cherokee High on its first possession fumbled to Murphy’s Cole Laney which set the first touchdown to his brother Ty Laney, who ran a 39-yard touchdown.  This set the tempo and started flurry of awesome play by the Bulldogs.  Through the first quarter Murphy’s defense flew to the ball and delivered some hard hits that stifled the Chiefs’ offense.  Joe Swain, Rylan Smith, Chandler Wood, and Kyle Willard, to name a few in the trenches kept Cherokee High out of the end zone. Big plays from Ty Laney, Juan Allen, Chandler Wood, Payton McCracken, Hunter Stalcup, and dead-on passes from Kellen Rumfelt lit up the scoreboard for a commanding Murphy lead at the half over Cherokee High 36-to-nothing.  We can bet that some of these rhinestone Bulldogs may be getting cards and letters from schools they don’t even know.  The 63-to-23 win over Cherokee High now lifts the Murphy Bulldogs to a 2-and-2 record on the 2021 season.

You must be pleased with the Murphy performance that was well executed, physical, and fast tempo.  From the sideline you could tell the intensity was not just on the field, the Bulldog coaches were ready to record a win.  “It was good!  It was a long bus ride out here.  The guys were ready to play.  I am proud of their effort.  We had a good week of practice.  It shows when you put in the work during the week,” Murphy Head Coach Joseph Watson stated after the game.

Through the first half, Murphy averaged almost 20 yards per play.  The game was sprinkled with a few Murphy miscues, fumbles (which were recovered by the Bulldogs), and very few penalties.  The Bulldogs didn’t waste any time correcting and building intensity in the next set of plays.  Coach Watson says this is what happens when you build a game on high tempo.  On the other side of the plays Cherokee high had its struggles with Murphy.  “This is what happens when you start playing faster.  You start running everyone to the ball.  That’s what we are focusing on and that’s what we want to do.  Good things happen,” Coach Watson explained.  Cherokee High was able to demonstrate it is a good football team.  Chiefs’ Quarterback Micah Jones was able to connect on a several passes to his favorite receiver Preston McNally and Will Price to keep Murphy honest.

Senior Running Back Chandler Wood closed the door on the Chiefs through the third quarter, which started slowly for the Bulldogs.  Wood scored two 40-plus yard touchdown runs within about four minutes of each other to end the third quarter Murphy 56 Cherokee 16.  Wood also scored on a 56-yard run to end the first quarter.  Rumfelt, his final touchdown pass was to Hunter Stalcup for a 31-yard touchdown pass play.  Murphy’s defense went to work on Cherokee and added another fumble recovery that resulted in a 30-yard TD carry by Junior Defensive Back Cameron Grooms, which brought Murphy fans to their feet.

Chandler Wood has been injured and has not been in on as many plays as he would like.  He made up for lost time.  Chandler explained about his play saying, “Tonight they finally gave me all the touches (carrying the ball) and made the best of it.  We came out here after getting clobbered by Rabun (County High) we needed this win.  People think Murphy is having a rebuilding year.  That is not the case, and we are here to prove that.”  Wood says blocking by the line was the key to his good running and is the best.

Murphy Bulldogs agreed the touchdown of the night was a defensive fumble recovery by Junior Lineman Kyle Willard.  With about a minute left to go in the second quarter, Chandler Wood lit up Chiefs’ Quarterback Micah Jones on a hard hitting sack, which caused the fumble.  Willard was in the glide path to the ball.  After the game he said he had always been trained to flop on the ball, but this time he was taking it to the end zone.  He did! Kyle carried it for 20 yards to end the first half.  At the moment of play, Kyle says, “It was good.  It was fun.  I got my ankle rolled on.  Chandler hit that boy (Chiefs Quarterback Jones) hard.  Got back there; scooped it; and scored; it was fun.”

The game has so many stories and people to point out we could crash this site loading all the accomplishments.  There were awesome passes, carries, blocks, defensive assaults, and actions that carried the Murphy Bulldogs.  Quarterback Kellen Rumfelt summed it up saying, “I thought we played a great game, and we were very balanced on our play calling and it was a great win!  I think what stuck out the most to me was seeing those guys that normally don’t get to score touchdowns, Cameron Grooms, Willard, and Joe (Swain) picked up a fumble and he had one man to beat.  But I was really proud of those guys because you know sometimes, they are not getting their name called every play, but they are working just as hard as anyone out here.”

As soon as game stats are available, Team FYN Sports will add them.  At press time, stats were not available.

 

Next game is at Union County (GA) and that will be a good one

Union County High is the next opponent this coming week.  Most of the players feel like they are ready.  It will have a little drama because across the field former Murphy Defensive Coordinator Thomas Nelson will help orchestrate the defense against Murphy.  Kellen Rumfelt says the Bulldogs need a little work to get ready.  “I don’t think we are ready yet.  I think we will definitely be ready by Friday.  We have to come back Monday and work just as hard as we have been and we will be alright,” Rumfelt added.  The game will be at Union County Friday night at 7:30.   Stay connected with Team FYN Sports for more details this week on the Murphy at Union County game.

Rabun County Wildcats Run Past the Murphy Bulldogs

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Bulldog leadership looks at the game to grow and develop

 

(Murphy) – – Too many turnovers and errors contributed to the Murphy Bulldogs 59-to-14 loss to the very powerful and skilled Rabun County (Ga) Wildcats.  Aside from needing to be physical and executing well, Murphy coaches this past week told the team it had to execute and take care of the ball.  “We have a common theme of when we are losing games, we are turning the ball over.  We have to do a better job about that.  Obviously, you can’t turn the ball over to that team (Rabun County) three times in the first half and be successful.  It’s hard to keep that offense off the field when you (Murphy) are not getting first downs.  We didn’t do a good job of doing that either,” Murphy Head Coach Joseph Watson explained in his post-game comments.

The first quarter held two of three turnovers for the half, which contributed to two Wildcat touchdowns.  Early in the game, the Bulldogs held off a Wildcat drive where Senior Defensive Back Juan Allen intercepted a pass from Rabun County Quarterback Gunner Stockton.  A fumble by the Bulldogs deep in its own territory set up an easy 3-yard touchdown carry by Junior Running Back Lang Windham.  Two minutes after the Wildcat touchdown, Murphy was mounting its return and fumbled to Rabun County.  The Bulldogs did not allow Rabun County to return unobstructed.  Juan Allen broke up a pass and the line denied Rabun County big advances.  Using the style and skill that Gunner Stockton is known to have, he ran a 36-yard touchdown to build the Wildcat momentum that would overpower and shut out Murphy in the first half 38-to-nothing.  There was a total of five Murphy turnovers in the game.

The night was long and arduous that wore the Bulldogs down.  Murphy came out in the second half with a new attitude and some adjustments with hope to get past the 38-to-nil score built by the Wildcats.  Even with 185 yards in penalties and three suspended players for throwing punches, the Wildcats reset and kept moving as if nothing happened.   The Bulldogs generated two touchdowns with a 13-yard pass play from Kellen Rumfelt to Juan Allen and a 1-yard Rumfelt run to the end zone at the end of the 3rd Quarter.  Rumfelt’s touchdown run was set up by a deep pass to Senior Wide Receiver Payton McCracken.  With each Murphy score, the Wildcats answered.

Coach Watson praised the Bulldogs saying, “I am proud of the kids.  They kept fighting and kept working.  They came back and worked hard in the second half. We are going to fight, and we are going to be alright!”

While the score is lopsided, Coach Watson noted a few bright spots in the game.  “In the first place, Juan’s good on the interception.  We moved the ball a little bit here and there, but it was hard to sustain a drive on these guys (Rabun County).  They are really good.  There were some good plays.  Kellen played his butt off the entire game; (he) kept fighting, kept working.  For the most part everybody did that,” Coach Watson mentioned about the game play.  Watson noted the other positive about the game was being on the field with a high caliber team like Rabun County.  He wants the Bulldogs to see the intensity and build to be the most physical, big, and fast.

The Next Game – Cherokee High, Tennessee not North Carolina

Going into the game with Rabun County, there was a thought the Bulldogs will not have a game this coming Friday night (September 17, 2021) at 7:30 PM.  Coach Watson was able to set up a game with Cherokee High in Rogersville, Tennessee.  Cherokee High won its first game 41-to-6 over Cocke County and lost its second 37-to-14 to Seymour.  According to other published reports, its not clear whether a forfeit was given to Cherokee High for the next two games with Daniel Boone and Clinton high.  Cherokee High is in the 5-A rankings in Tennessee.  Rogersville will be at least a 3-hour ride for Murphy fans.  More details on Cherokee High this week. Look for our preview on Wednesday night/Thursday morning at Team FYN Sports.

Game Stats – Murphy and Rabun County

Thirty-Four passing plays were attempted between Murphy’s Kellen Rumfelt and Rabun County’s Gunner Stockton.  Rumfelt completed 9 of 19 attempts for 193 yards, which included a touchdown pass and an interception.  Stockton completed 17 of 25 passes for 366 yards, which included 4 touchdowns and 1 interception.  Below are the overall statistics for the game.  Stats provided by Murphy High’s Ray Carroll.

 

Murphy versus Rabu County Game Statistics (September 10, 2021)

Rabun County

Murphy

Total Offense

579

241

     Number of Plays

49

50

     Yards per Play

11.8

4.8

Passing

366

193

Rushing

213

48

Penalties

15-185

9-85

Turnovers

1

5

Time of Possession

17:44

29:58

First Downs

24

14

 

 

Show the Rabun County Wildcats what Murphy Football is All About

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Murphy Bulldogs will host Rabun County High Wildcats this week

Written by Brandon Stephens

 

(Murphy) – – “I like this week’s team energy and tempo, but we have got introduce them (Rabun County Wildcats) to Murphy football,” Murphy Head Football Coach Joseph Watson explained to the team after practice.  That may be a very simplified game plan, but inside that formula may be the complete key, answer, or secret to winning Friday night’s football game.  Rabun County’ s first game was a loss to 5-A state champion Jefferson High 22-to-13 and the second game was a 47-14 win over Pace Academy.  Our bet is the first game might have been physical and the second, which aired on ESPN2 didn’t show a lot of physical play. Besides not making errors and triggering penalties, Murphy must throw some ‘bust you in the face’ – smashmouth football to set the tone for the game and get a hurry on high-powered Wildcat quarterback Gunner Stockton.

Tremendous opportunity is presenting itself to Murphy when it faces Rabun County Friday night (September 10, 2021) after a week that felt like a desperate search to find a game when South Pittsburgh (Tennessee) canceled its game with the Bulldogs.  Coach Watson says getting this game balances out the canceled game.  “I spoke to their (Rabun County) coach a little bit about it and I thought we have an opportunity like that to play a school of that caliber, we needed to take and be excited about playing them.  I know Rabun County has a really good program, so it does balance it out,” Watson stated after practice this week.

 

Learning the next opponent would be Rabun County excited the Bulldogs.  Usually, a long weekend accented by Labor Day might be a tough week to get the team motivated.  Murphy Senior Quarterback says each practice this week has been solid.  “We knew Saturday morning we got the message that we were going to be playing Rabun County and just from then on we have been super excited.  Every practice has been 100 percent all the way through.  Probably been some of our best practices I have ever had out here at Murphy just because of how excited and how much energy we have had,” Kellen explained.  Rumfelt continued to say teams experiencing the physical nature of Bulldogs don’t have as much success.

 

Most of the physical aggression will need to come from the men on the line.  That places great responsibility on players like Rylan Smith and Jonathan Hamby as frontline leaders.  A major key to success against Rabun County will come from the linemen invading the Wildcat backfield and hurrying a five-star quarterback who has all the tools to post a win.  Wildcat quarterback Gunner Stockton will play almost 100 percent of the time in shotgun, five to six yards off the ball and simulate even more speed and agility.  “I think if we just hit them in the mouth early and get to the quarterback quick so he doesn’t have time to throw it, I think we will be pretty good. But we have to get to quarterback in time,” Junior Center Jonathan Hamby states.  Hamby will be a coach on the field.  His responsibility will also include reading the 3-3 stack defense that will threaten Murphy and audible to the team to possibly adjust.

 

Playing man or zone defense will be a critical decision for Murphy’s leadership.  Or it may rely on possibly playing a hybrid of both.  Senior Running Back Juan Allen is noted for carrying the football, will be challenged to play specific assignment defense from the Bulldog secondary and keep pace with Stockton’s favored receivers like Junior Jaden Gibson, who helps build the passing yards and touchdowns posted by the Wildcats.  “I think they only thing that will change (defensively) is we are going to run a little bit of man because it gives our defensive line more opportunity to push in on the quarterback,” Juan states.  Will he be tested?  “I think I am going to be tested a lot, but I am looking forward to it,” Allen added.

What about Rabun County?

The Wildcats present an experienced team with a lot of seniors at starting positions.  The Wildcat offense loves to spread out its team with four or five wide receivers and leave several decisions in the hands of its quarterback.  This team will stretch out its opponents and hit a vertical play.  Gunner Stockton is well developed and highly skilled young man.  Stockton has earned a national ranking of 5 or 6, depending on the report, and has committed to play for the University of Georgia, which is known for having skilled quarterbacks, like Matt Stafford.  Stockton is 6 foot 2 inches and over 220 pounds.  When he is not throwing, he can run like a fullback on quarterback counters and traps.  Don’t be fooled, if there is not passing opportunity, Stockton will make a play.

 

Defensive looks from the Wildcats will mirror the same configuration of a 3-3 set, like what we saw last week against Georgia Force.  It is also a defensive set that teams like Swain County have been sending toward the Murphy offense.  The Bulldog offense should be trained to face the Wildcat D.  The frontline averages 240 pounds and is lead in tackles and stunts by Junior End Cersar Cruz.  The defense will adjust depending on the alignment it sees from cover three to cover four or frontline five technique to possibly a seven.  During the Pace Academy game, the Wildcat defense was not tremendously aggressive, but limited scoring to only two touchdowns.

Don’t throw hope of not being able to handle Rabun County away.  They can be beaten, just as they suffered a loss a few weeks ago to Jefferson.  The teams Rabun County will face are no pushovers.  “Well, they can be beat.  But you know the caliber of teams they play in the state of Georgia are outstanding. They (Rabun County) are used to good talent and people getting after them, so it is not going to be anything different for them,” Coach Watson notes.

What this means is Murphy must play flawless, serious, and physical football.  This makes the original point of having a great opportunity to play and join the ranks of the high-quality football teams that make impact as Murphy moves through the fall season.  The Bulldogs will have to step up its speed and play diligently through all four quarters of football.  “We are going to have to play mistake free and continue to be getting better, which is what we did last week,” Coach Watson says.  Be mentally and physically tough, that’s in original formula and work toward a second win for the season.

Team FYN Sports will provide update coverage.  Expect to see our team provide some pre-game, half-time, and post-game coverage through our normal outlets.  Game time is 7:30 Friday night at Murphy High’s Bob Hendrix Stadium/David Gentry Field.

Other Rabun County Notes

What a name to have, Gunner Stockton, who is the star quarterback with a promising future at the University of Georgia. One may never know how he was named, but it is fitting.  Stockton is not an anomaly at Rabun County High.  The town of Tiger has produced some other great football players like Charlie Woerner, who played for the Wildcats.  Woerner also suited up for the Georgia Bulldogs mainly as a blocking tight end and was drafted in the sixth round in 2020 for the San Francisco 49ers.  Woerner is also the nephew of Scott Woerner who played for Georgia and professionally for New Orleans and Atlanta.  Never overlook the stock of players that come from little towns.  Just ask Carl Pickens, Heath Shuler, and most recently Yousef Mugharbil.

Bulldogs Dominate the Georgia Force Blue Knights in 2021 Season Home Opener

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No Doubt about the Offense…the Night built strength in the defense

Written by Brandon Stephens

 

(Murphy) – – Almost every possession the Murphy Bulldogs showed its prowess by scoring and in exciting fashion.  Being undersized and stunned, the Georgia Force defense struggled to stop the Bulldogs from going to the end zone.  Early in the game the Bulldogs defense was a little shaky, which didn’t take long to overcome and start showing the skill and discipline that has been the main characteristic of Murphy Bulldog football.  Murphy posted 51 points to go to the half with sharp missile like passes from Kellen Rumfelt, which resulted in a touchdown pass to Payton McCracken.  Ty Laney, Juan Allen, and Hunter Stalcup scorched the earth getting up the field and making touchdowns.

“They (Georgia Force) were a good team.  We knew what we had to do.  They came but we just shut them down,” Junior Running Back Ty Laney said after the game.  For the season home opener and looking to build the momentum and fire Murphy is known to have, Ty says the game was a lot of fun.  “If we are doing what we have to do it’s not that hard to keep that momentum going,” Laney added.

It was the longest first half which seemed to wear down some players, but the excitement of getting on top of the game lifted the Bulldogs to a thrilling first half.  It showed dozens of young Bulldog football players, attending the game for Youth League Night, how to be great players!

“We really prepared really well for them (Georgia Force).  The coaches (Murphy Coaches) did a great job simulating what they were going to do in practice.  I think that is one of the biggest reasons we came out with a win so easily,” Kellen Rumfelt commented on the game.  Juan Allen shared Kellen’s comments stating, “On film they looked good, but it didn’t look like their star players wanted to play.”  How do you keep the good momentum going?  Kellen says it begins with practice on Labor Day Monday.  “We are off from school Monday, but we have got to come to practice Monday morning ready to work.  We have got to stay hungry,” he added.  Juan chimed with, “What he (Kellen) said! We’ve just got to stay hungry.” The win over Georgia Force has really boosted the Bulldogs and helped give a better outlook to the season.

The second half seemed to move lightening quick.  There were feelings the game should have been in a rolling clock.  During the second half, Coach Joseph Watson removed most of the starters.  Players like Cole Laney, Jaiden Cotton, and Trenton Russell built the second-string offense.  Murphy scored only once in the second half with Sophomore Running Back Trenton Russell on an 11-yard run with 2:12 seconds to go in the third quarter.  Catalina Barrero nailed the point-after-touchdown kick.  That would be the last time Murphy would score.

“This feels better than two weeks ago.  I am proud of the kids playing hard tonight.  They came out ready to play on fire in the first quarter.  It’s probably the longest quarter of football I have seen in my life,” Coach Watson said after the game.  Long quarter or long first half?  The Bulldogs did lots of work to put up a ton of points and that slowed the game down, which is a good indicator of great performance.  That is something Coach Watson was pleased to see.  He was also pleased with individual play.  “Ty (Laney) runs the ball like a man every time you give it to him.  They all run the ball hard.  You have Hunter Stalcup in there running hard, and Juan as well.  When you can get Juan the ball good things usually happen,” Coach Watson adds.

More important to building on a 51-to-Seven lead at the half, Coach Watson was looking to build strength with the defense and keep the spirits high with the offense throughout the game. Coach Watson noted, “Defense did a great job.  They had a big stop early on them down in their territory. You know I am just proud of those kids playing hard and coming back two weeks ago, that was something they are not happy about, nor I was, or the coaches.  And they did a good job correcting that and coming back to work.”

Game Stats

The Murphy Bulldogs rolled up 526 yards of total offense on 40 plays, which amounted to 13 yards per play and only used 26 minutes to do.  That’s the efficiency we are used to seeing out of the Bulldogs.  Passing accounted for 176 yards and Rushing 350 yards.  The Blue Knights were limited to 185 yards, most of which were off passes (116 yards).  The rest was rushing.  The more impressive stat was Murphy score 58 points and limited the Georgia Force to 14.

Individually, Kellen Rumfelt complete six of eight passes for 176 yards, which included two touchdown passes.  One of the touchdown-passes went to Payton McCracken, his only reception of the night for a 61-yard touchdown.  Hunter Stalcup had 3 receptions for 56 yards and Juan Allen and Will Johnson made up the remaining receptions and yardage.

Ty Laney now leads the team in rushing yardage after collecting 135 yards against the Blue Knights.  Juan Allen is right behind Ty with yardage.  What is most impressive about Juan is that his average carry is eclipses Ty Laney.  Each carry for Juan is almost 24 yards, while more yardage on more carries by Laney.  Regardless these two Bulldogs know how to move past the opponent and get touchdowns.  Trenton Russell had 7 carries for 60 yards.  Hunter Stalcup ran the field averaging 10 yards per carry (50 on five carries).  Both had a touchdown.  Others making their mark on the field included Will Joyner and Jaiden Cotton, who have good promise to contribute well into the future.

The other good note of an efficient night for Murphy was having 21 first downs.  Looking at the number of play 40 and 21 first downs…there weren’t many third or fourth down conversions as the Bulldogs wasted no time getting up the field.  While many plays on paper don’t sound like much, were like lightening striking on the field.  A good example is a solid pass play to Will Johnson for 19 yards, which was a prelude to a Ty Laney touchdown.  Good job Kellen and Will!  Stats were provided by Murphy High School through Ray Carroll.

The intangible statistic you don’t see on paper are the blocks, the multiple times the guys in the trenches hurried the Blue Knight’s quarterback.  The line did a great job to open the holes for Ty and Juan.  Coach Watson summed up the Bulldog effort on the night.  “It’s totally a team effort on the offense.  And defensively they played their butts off.  We thought this team (Georgia Force) coming in was very dangerous passing-wise, and they are.  As a total team effort tonight offense, defense, and special teams did an outstanding job,” stated Coach Watson.

How the Bulldogs Scored

Murphy shut the Blue Knights out in the first quarter 15-to-nothing.  Second Quarter was a blast for the Bulldogs scoring 36 points and seeing Georgia Force score mid-way through the period on a kick-off return for 76 yards.  Murphy and Georgia Force only scored once in the second half.  Here is how it worked out.

First Quarter

10:30 – Kellen Rumfelt completes a 40-yard pass play to Juan Allen for the first touchdown.  Will Joyner hits the PAT (Murphy 7 Georgia Force 0)

3:05 – Ty Laney runs in a 2-yard touchdown.  Cole Laney completes a two-point conversion run (Murphy 15 Georgia Force 0)

Second Quarter

9:30 – Ty Laney runs for a 38-yard touchdown. Joyner is good on the PAT (Murphy 22 Georgia Force 0)

8:40 – Kellen Rumfelt hits Payton McCracken for a 61-yard touchdown pass play.  Joyner is good on the PAT (Murphy 29 Georgia Force 0).

6:28 – Juan Allen runs for a 35-yard touchdown.  Joyner hits the PAT (Murphy 36 Georgia Force 0)

6:17 – Georgia Force returns the kickoff by Wide Receiver Josh Patterson for a 76-yard touchdown run.  Dominic Fisher hits the PAT (Murphy 36 Georgia Force 7).

5:08 – Juan runs for his second touchdown 44 yards.  Will Joyner nails the PAT (Murphy 43 Georgia Force 7)

3:27 – Georgia Force is caught in the end zone and the quarterback is whistled for intentional grounding, which gives Murphy a 2 Point Safety.  (Murphy 45 Georgia Force 7).

1:09 – Hunter Stalcup runs for a 6-yard touchdown.  Will Joyner misses the PAT.  (Murphy 51 Georgia Force 7) to end the first half.

Third Quarter

2:12 – Sophomore Running Back Trenton Russell runs for an 11-yard touchdown.  Catalina Barrero hits the PAT.  (Murphy 58 Georgia Force 7)

Fourth Quarter

9:34 – Georgia Force Quarterback Caleb Fleitz completes an 11-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Johnson.  Alex Strine hits the PAT. (FINAL SCORE Murphy 58 Georgia Force 14).

 

Murphy Doesn’t Have a Game This Coming Week

The great momentum and spirit the Murphy Bulldogs was to be maintain and built.  One way to do that is play another game and do well.  This coming week the Bulldogs don’t have a game.  Scheduled was the highly regarded South Pittsburgh, Tennessee high school, which is located near Chattanooga.  COVID-19 issues and concerns made the South Pittsburgh High leadership decide to cancel the game to protect student and public health.  In addition to preparing for Georgia Force, Coach Watson has been calling and searching for a team to face this week.  “I am going to find a game.  I tell people we will go wherever.  We will travel or we will host them here (in Murphy), it doesn’t matter.  If we can find anybody within two to two-and-a-half hours of here we will play them.  We are going to have some options and we are going to play,” Coach Watson stated.  Primarily, the Bulldogs want to make sure they continue to exercise their abilities not just in a practice but a game situation.  That will go a long way to building a great season.  We will keep you informed on the new game situation when it is confirmed.

2021 Season Home Opener for Murphy Football

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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.

GEORGIA FORCE

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!

Franklin Hands Murphy Loss to Begin the 2021 Season

Sports, Team FYN Sports, TeamFYNSports

Photo from BT Douthit

Written by Brandon Stephens

(Franklin, NC) – – Franklin Panthers took every opportunity the Murphy Bulldogs handed out. There were too many mistakes, penalties, turnovers, and miscues from the Bulldogs. A shallow punt, two interceptions, and a turnover on downs fueled the Panthers to a 35-to-15 win. You could tell from the chatter on the sideline the Bulldogs will not put this loss behind them and will use it to motivate the team to success moving forward. They will have a week to review, rebuild, and heal as Murphy has an early open week before it has the season home opener on September 3rd (Youth League Night) going into the Labor Day Weekend.

First Quarter

Franklin took first possession and burnt about 4:36 to run its first touchdown. The dual threat action from Quarterback Chris McGuire pushed the ball down to the one-yard line. McGuire ran the ball in on a one-yard keeper and Grant Adams posted the point-after kick to make the score Franklin 7 Murphy 0.

Murphy’s first possession showed promise the Bulldogs would keep the pace. With about 6:04 left to go in the first quarter, Senior Bulldog Running Back Chandler Wood went on a sprint to the endzone from 41 yards out, only to have the six taken off the board for a holding call, Murphy’s first penalty. For the night, Murphy had 6 penalties setting the Bulldogs back 55 yards. The penalties called on Murphy were costly. By the 2:34 mark in the first quarter, Senior Quarterback Kellen Rumfelt ran a 1-yard keeper to give the Bulldogs its first touchdown. Lady Bulldog Kicker, Catalina Barrero scored the point-after and evened the score to Murphy 7 Franklin 7 and ended the quarter for scoring.

Second Quarter

Franklin shutout the Bulldogs with no scoring and placed 14 points on the board to end the first half Franklin 21 Murphy 7. The two Franklin touchdowns were set up in short field position. During the early moments of the second quarter, Payton McCracken set a shallow punt that placed the Panthers inside the Murphy 40-yard line. A well-executed Chris McGuire pass and a Kellen Stiles run took Franklin to the 3-yard line, where Kellen Stiles ran it in, and Grant Adams nailed the point-after.

Next Murphy possession, the Bulldogs start their drive on the 34-yard line. Working to aggressively move up the field, Kellen Rumfelt through his first interception to Franklin’s Ben Waldroop who moved the ball to the Franklin 45. In an instant it seemed, Chris McGuire launches a 55-yard pass play to Keagan Pollack that ends the first half scoring. Adams hits the point after. Half-time score is Franklin 21 Murphy 7.

Third Quarter

Visibly, the Bulldogs appeared to be inspired and fired up to make positive change and catch up with the Panthers. But a Bulldog fumble recovered by Franklins Aiden Stewart, a facemask penalty and some big run plays by Franklin dampened Murphy’s spirits. Franklin’s Junior Running Back Ty Handley bobbled the ball down to the 13-yard line and almost gave Murphy hopes to recover the ball. Instead, McGuire aired the ball back out to Pollack and built the lead to 21 (Franklin 28 Murphy 7).

Murphy fans thought the Panthers would score again as Kellen Rumfelt, who by now was feeling more pressure and was hurried more in the backfield was sacked for a loss. Taking over this time didn’t work too well for Franklin. Bulldog linemen were able to get to Panther Quarterback McGuire to force a fumble, which was recovered by Payton McCracken and taken to the Franklin 10-yard line. Two plays later, Junior Murphy Running Back, Ty Laney ran eight yards for a touchdown and a complementing 2-point conversion. That would end Murphy’s scoring for the night. End of the third Franklin 28 Murphy 15.

Four Quarter

You could see fatigue and frustration all through the sideline and it showed on the field. Kellen Rumfelt was scrambling to make plays and was about to be sacked and threw the ball. One of the last penalties was intentional grounding. Franklin stopped throwing the ball as much and ran the ball to burn up the clock and kill any chance of Murphy mounting a comeback. To seal up the win, McGuire launched an 18-yard pass play to Davis Anders and Erick Munoz kicked the point-after. Final Score – Franklin 35 Murphy 15.

Take a ways from the Game

This is not the typical Murphy game, and we knew it would be a physical game and Franklin has improved a lot. The pure Murphy fan can probably walk away from this game knowing that the Bulldogs handed too many opportunities to the Panthers…and they cashed them all. Ask Coach Joseph Watson and he would agree. “You can’t make that many mistakes and beat a quality team like Franklin. We said coming into the game that Franklin is going to tell you what kind of team you have. We have a team that is going to fight you. But too many mistakes to beat a good team like that,” Coach Watson stated after the game.

Murphy has a week off to think about this game; work on the mistakes made; and heal. The early open date is not something Coach Watson wanted necessarily. But, after this game he is welcoming the extra time to exercise the Bulldogs some more. “I always said this open week, I didn’t love it at first. It kinda comes at a good time. But you never want to go into an open week with a loss. You never want to go into any week with a loss. We do need to heal up a little bit here,” Watson added.

Coach Watson felt like the Bulldogs played diligently and put out a good effort. Just too many mistakes. Turnovers and miscues don’t win ballgames. Two weeks from now you will probably see some big improvements in the Bulldogs. Murphy will open its first of three home games on September 3rd against Georgia Force; followed by a powerful South Pittsburgh, Tennessee team on September 10th; and Life Christian Academy on September 17th. It will be exciting to see how Murphy builds.

Stats and Game Leaders
                                                Murphy                             Franklin
Total Offense                    140 Yards                            265 Yards
Passing                                39 Yards                             129 Yards
Rushing                              101 Yards                            136 Yards
Penalties                        6 for 55 Yards                         4 for 35 Yards
First Downs                             11                                         19

Ty Laney led the team in rushing with 63 yards on 11 carries. Payton McCracken caught two passes for 21 yards. Franklin Ty Handley led Panther rushers with 64 yards on 18 carries. Keagan Pollack had four receptions for 77 yards to lead the Panthers. Kellen Rumfelt had five completions out of 13 attempts for 39 yards passing and two interceptions. Franklin’s Chris McGuire had 129 yards on 7 completions on 13 attempts. Three of McGuire’s passes were for touchdowns.  Stats provided by Murphy High School, Ray Carroll.

Dogs Impress In Scrimmage

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Photos courtesy of BT Douthit

 

Murphy faced Erwin last night in their final tune-up before their first game of the year against Franklin next week. The Dogs looked pretty impressive across the board. 

#14, Cole Laney was under center for the Dogs, starting for the injured Kellen Rumfelt. Rumfelt is taking it week by week as coaches don’t want to rush him back while he’s nursing an injury he suffered in the 2020 State Championship game. The Dogs offense didn’t miss a beat with Laney at the helm, scoring basically at will early in the scrimmage.

#14 was calm, cool and collected. Even through busted plays he was still level-headed enough to make something out of nothing and bail his guys out. Through the air, Laney threw two deep touchdown passes early on in the scrimmage. He also looked to be in command of the offense, adjusting at the line of scrimmage and making smart decisions. He did miss a few throws that could’ve gone for big plays, but he will only get better the more he’s behind center. You could make the case that on any other team in the conference, Laney would be the starter. Needless to say, the Black and Gold are in good hands if Rumfelt needs to miss more time.

 

Chandler Wood takes the handoff

As for the running back committee, Ty Laney, Chandler Wood and Juan Allen all looked good. Ty Laney is as good as anyone in reading his blocks and finding holes, and he busted off a couple long runs in doing so. He is the clear RB1 for Murphy heading into the year. 

Chandler Wood was able to knock off the rust of sitting out last season, and he broke loose for a 60 yard TD run. Wood did leave the scrimmage early with a slight ankle strain, but he will most certainly be ready to go by game time next week. 

Juan Allen got more carries than expected, and will help improve the depth in a shallow backfield. Allen is so quick and elusive, when he was able to get the edge last he was gone. He also improved his route running this offseason, and is going to be a problem for opposing defenses to cover.

Defensively, as expected Ty Laney and Payton McCracken are the ones to watch. Both aren’t afraid to hit you in the mouth, and both seem to be all over the field. Hunter Laney is going to be a great addition in the secondary with McCracken and Allen. Laney had a pick and was great in coverage the entire evening, and he is going to make a name for himself this year. 

Hunter Laney interception

There were also some new faces that made a splash on defense. Will Carringer and Hunter Stalcup along with some others are going to help Murphy maintain the defensive presence that they’ve been known for over the years.

This was also new Head Coach Joseph Watson’s first action on the sidelines as the head honcho. “I’m excited. It felt right. It kinda felt like what I though it would feel like, ya know. It’s not that much different to me, except I’ve got a couple more interviews to do and a lot more talking to do,” Watson said laughingly. “I’m proud of these kids, they played hard and it was really fun.” 

In regards to quarterback Cole Laney’s performance, Watson said, “Cole can play. He’s not a backup quarterback. If he’s not having to play QB he’s going to be on the field for us somewhere else. Ya know, he came in in the State Championship game for us, and with a small lead he went ahead and finished it off for us. He’s been there, he’s been in situations that are big, but it is different when you’re the guy starting out there, but he’s handled it awesome. He’s a chill kid, him and his brother Ty both, they just do anything you ask them. I love those kids, I love all the kids.”

Overall, the Dogs turned heads. They have some things they need to clean up for sure, but at this point in the year they are more cohesive as a unit than I would’ve expected. 

In their first regular season action of the year, Friday August 20th Murphy will travel to Franklin to play the Panthers. Murphy beat Franklin last year pretty handily, but the Panthers have made great improvements this offseason. I would definitely expect this to be a 4 quarter game.

Murphy Bulldogs Preseason Preview

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Everyone wants to know what the “New Bulldogs” will look without Coach David Gentry at the helm for the first time in 40 years.

Allow me to answer that question: They will look the same.

The defending State Champs may have some new coaches this year, but aside from a few names, their roster looks pretty similar to last year’s.

Coaching Tree:

Even though he’s now the head honcho, Joseph Watson will maintain his position as Offensive Coordinator for the Bulldogs. Replacing Thomas Nelson as the Defensive Coordinator is not going to be easy, but there are a few guys that could be up for the job. Luckily for Watson, there are some young guys on the Murphy Coaching Staff that will help fill the roles of some of the older guys that left. Heath Curtis will get a ton of new responsibilities. Curtis is a defensive minded guy and a heck of a coach who will go a long way in helping replace Nelson. Michael Kernea, Seth Curtis and Tyler Edwards are also guys we will probably see helping out on the sidelines on Friday nights. James Shope and Erik Laney are 2 veteran coaches who are still on staff that should be able to help Watson groom these younger guys into championship caliber coaches.

Key Retuners:

Senior Quarterback Kellen Rumfelt will be back at the helm for the Dogs this year. Right now,, he is the best player in the conference. His favorite target Payton McCracken is also back and better than ever. If both are 100 percent healthy, Murphy should be the favorite to win the SMC this year. Junior Running Back Ty Laney will be the main man in the Bulldogs backfield, along with Senior Chandler Wood, who sat out last year. The addition of Wood will help add depth in a slim backfield that will already be missing John Ledford due to injury. Hunter Stalcup is another name to listen for, a sophomore Running Back who could see a few carries this year.

Luckily for the Running Back committe, a good portion of the Offensive Line is returning for the Dogs this year. Jeremiah Dickey, Jonathan Hamby, Mason Thrasher and Ryland Smith should offer a lot of protection for their backfield.

Defensively, Juan Allen, the senior ballhawking DBack will make QBs think twice before putting the ball in the air, as he led the SMC in interceptions last year.

Kyle Willard will be big on the D Line for the Dogs, look for hum to get a lot of penetration against smaller SMC lines.

The Linebacker position is where Murphy will be hurting the most defensively. Without Ray Rathburn and Landon Jordan, the Dogs will have to rely heavily on Ty Laney and Will Johnson. I would also expect to see Hunter Stalcup and Briggs Cornwell take their fair share of snaps at linebacker.

Schedule:

Murphy opens up their season on the road against Franklin. Murphy and Franklin have played for many, many years now, and it’s usually a pretty good game. Franklin has improved a ton this off season, so I would look for this one to be a lot closer than last year. Panthers QB Chris McGuire looks like a completely different QB than he did last season.

Unfortunately, or fortunately for the Dogs depending on how you look at it, week 2 will be a bye week. This could really hurt Murphy coming down the stretch, but if their guys aren’t 100 percent ready to go in week one, this will give them another week to heal up.

Week 3, Murphy will face Georgia Force Christian. GFC is an independent Christian school. In 2020, they went 8-3, with one of those 3 losses coming against Copper Basin.

Next, the Dogs will face 1A Tennessee power house South Pittsurgh. South Pitt was 13-2 last year, losing in the TSSAA 1A State Title game by 6 points. The Pirates have lost 8 games in the previous 5 seasons. They are the cream of the crop when it comes to high school football in Tennessee. You’ll really find out just how good the Dogs are this year come September 10th.

After the highly anticipated game against South Pitt, Murphy will host Life Christian Academy before traveling to Union County on September 24th. Longtime Murphy Defensive Coordinator Thomas Nelson will be on the sidelines coaching against the Dogs in this one, and I imagine it’ll be a fill house in Blairsville. This is another game that will test the Dogs all around.

Finally, Murphy will open up conference play on the road against Cherokee on October 1st. Cherokee is going to be a much improved football team, and Murphy will have to find a way to contain QB Don Bradley in order to come away with a W.

Up next is Hayesville at home. This should be smooth sailing for Murphy, as Hayesville doesn’t quite have the numbers to keep up.

After Hayesville, Murphy will host Robbinsville on October 15th. Always one of the most hyped games of the year, this will decide who your conference champ is going to be.

Murphy will then end the year on the road against Swain and Andrews. Swain will probably be down once again this year, but I think Andrews is going to cause problems for everyone in the SMC. Andrews has the individual players to compete with anyone in the SMC, they just do not have the depth.

This schedule for Murphy is going to help them find out who they are, without breaking them completely. They have two really tough games against South Pitt and Union County, but they do get Robbinsville at home to even things out.

I think once again Murphy has a lot of doubters heading into this football season. I know a lot of people are worried that Gentry won’t be on the sidelines and that so much change has happened with the team. But Murphy is still Murphy. And they always will be. They are the favorites to win the conference outright, and they are going to be a lot of people are going to be changing their tune about the Dogs come October.

 

 

 

 

2021 Preseason All Smoky Mountain Conference Team & Awards

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We’re back for the second installment of the FYN Sports Preseason All Smoky Mountain Conference football awards. Our staff writers and other sports writers in the community came together and helped us narrow down our choices for this year’s preseason All-Conference teams. These picks are backed by last year’s stats and are our predictions of who to watch for this year.

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR: 

Kellen Rumfelt, Senior QB, Murphy

Rumfelt was the best passer in the SMC last year. He led the league in passing TDs and passing yards. He also led his team to a State Championship W. Easy choice here for FYN Sports Preseason POY.

PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Donald Bradley, Senior QB, Cherokee

Bradley won a couple games for Cherokee single-handedly last year. He can make things happen with his arm, and with his legs. He’s perhaps the most exciting QB to watch in the conference. It will be interesting to see what he can do with the weapons he has coming back this year.

PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Drew Martin, Junior LB, Andrews

Martin average around 10 Tackles per game last year and was the cornerstone of the Wildcats defense. A lot of people are high on Andrews this year and think they may be able to make a push for 3rd position on the conference, and Drew Martin is a big reason why.

PRESEASON ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: 

Cuttler Adams, Sophomore RB/LB, Robbinsville

Cuttler Adams is going to be a name to remember. He does it all. He makes an impact in all 3 phases of the game. Special Teams, offense and defense, he’s always flying around trying to make a play. He has a good chance to lead the Black Knights in Tackles and rushing yards this year.

Preseason All-Conference team-

Quarterback:

Kellen Rumfelt, Murphy

Donald Bradley, Cherokee

Running Back:

Isaac Weaver, Andrews

Ty Laney, Murphy

Cuttler Adams, Robbinsville

Wide Receiver/Tight End:

Payton McCracken, Murphy

Jake McTaggart, Hayesville

Hunter Laney, Murphy

Offensive Line:

Carlos Wesley, Robbinsville

Carson White, Robbinsville

Kyle Willard, Murphy

Mason Thrasher, Murphy

Sam Bernhisel, Swain

Defensive Line:

Carlos Wesley, Robbinsville

Ben Wachacha, Robbinsville

Kyle Lunsford, Hayesville

James Reed, Cherokee

Linebacker:

Drew Martin, Andrews

Kage Williams, Robbinsville

Carson Taylor, Swain

Defensive Back:

Juan Allen, Murphy

Payton McCracken, Murphy

Cuttler Adams, Robbinsville

Taylor McClure, Hayesville

Kicker:

Cody Kline, Robbinsville

Athletes:

Cole Anderson, Andrews

Donovan Bateman, Andrews

Chandler Wood, Murphy

Brock Adams, Robbinsville

 

 

Our Takeaways From Last Weeks 7 on 7

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Last Thursday we hosted our inaugural FYN Sports x Fellowship of Christian Athletes 7 on 7 featuring Murphy, Hayesville, Andrews, Franklin, Copper Basin, and Union County.

We got a good look at all of the teams that were there, as each team played at least 3 games a piece.

Granted, teams were missing players and 7 on 7 is not the best measuring stick for real football, but we’re still going to over analyze it and read way too much into it simply because it’s the offseason and we have nothing else to talk about.

 

ANDREWS

The Wildcats looked pretty decent in their first 7 on 7 of the year. If there was one word I could use to describe what I felt after watching the Wildcats all day, the word would be “excited”. Junior quarterback, #12 Donovan Bateman showed flashes of excellence for the red and black. He delivered some pretty good deep balls to his receivers, and looked great at times, but there were also points where he was a little shaky. We saw hime miss a few of his reads and hold onto the ball for a bit too long before making a bad decision and trying to fire it into double coverage. However, those are things that can be worked out with experience, and with Bateman only being a junior and already having the snaps he has under his belt, he is for sure one to watch this year and next year. He could be the top QB in the SMC in 2022.

Copper Basin

There probably isn’t a team that has been dealt a worse hand than the Cougars have over the past year. Many thought they could compete for a State Title last year, and they probably could’ve if their Senior QB Bryson Grabowski hadn’t torn his ACL halfway through the season. With Grabowski graduated, they will have to rely on Senior Joe Boggs to be their signal caller this year. During the 7 on 7, Boggs looked frazzled. And there is so much pressure on this kid that I can’t blame him for being frazzled. He’s a linebacker, not a QB. But with everything the Cougars lost to graduation and their low numbers as it is, Boggs is going to have to be the guy. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but he did make a few throws that made you turn your head. The thing you can take away from this if you’re a Basin fan, is to remember you have Sebastian Baliles back in the backfield this year. Baliles made a few snags underneath and was the go-to guy when the Cougars were able to move the ball on Thursday.

Franklin

Your 2021 FYN Sports 7v7 champs, the Franklin Panthers were really impressive last week. They defeated Union County in the championship game to complete an undefeated run. Senior QB Chris McGuire was named the MVP of the day, and he is definitely not the same quarterback we’ve seen the past 2 years. McGuires decision making was pretty impressive the rest of the day after struggling in the opening game against Murphy. He picked apart Union County in the championship, and was the most impressive QB we saw Thursday as a whole. This is not the same Franklin team we saw get killed by Murphy last year. Coach Brooks has a new squad ready to play ball this year if this 7 on 7 told us anything.

Hayesville 

I mean you can’t say enough how much it means for Hayesville for Jake McTaggart to be back on that sideline. There were times where it looked like Junior QB Logan Caldwell just closed his eyes and threw it up, and yet McTaggart came down with it. I’m not dissing Caldwell either, he looks 10x better than he did last year. The young guy just needs to make better decisions. For example, in one of Hayesvilles games against Union, it was tied 18-18 or something like that and Hayesville had the ball with 5 seconds left. Instead of just dumping it underneath when he realized the play wasn’t going to develop, he threw it deep and the Panthers came down with a game winning interception. I know it’s just 7v7, but you want to see the kid make the decision to dump it and play for OT instead of losing the game on one throw. Nonetheless, the Jackets looked pretty good for a young team.

Murphy

The Bulldogs came into this thing without starting QB Kellen Rumfelt and without backup QB Cole Laney. Rumfelt still hasn’t recovered from the injury he sustained during the state championship game, and Laney had to attend a wedding. That left Sophomore Andrew Barolet as the Dogs starter. The Dogs definitely did not get what they wanted out of their young QB, who never seemed to get comfortable under center. We won’t spend anymore time talking about what happened at QB for Murphy as I don’t expect we will see Barolet playing this year. McCracken, Allen, and Hunter Laney were the bright spots for the Dogs on the day. Payton McCracken made a few catches that were sportscenter worthy and Juan Allen was all over the field, yet Hunter Laney was who caught my eye the most. If new Head Coach Joseph Watson uses Laney correctly this season, he could be poised for a breakout year.

I don’t expect Murphys performance in this 7v7 to have any correlation to how their year will go, but hey ya never know. With all of the personnel Murphy lost this season, they definitely have a huge question mark on their head heading into this new year.

 

Union County 

Boy was it weird to look over and see Thomas Nelson in purple instead of Black and Gold. Nonetheless, you could tell Nelson has had an immediate impact on the Panthers. Their defense was definitely a tighter unit than in previous years, and new Head Coach Michael Perry had the offense clicking at times also. Up until the championship, Panthers QB Logan Helcher looked like a well oiled machine. He was using nearly every target he had, finding Eli Peugh, Caleb John and Keyton Chitwood for multiple TDs. If you’re a Union County fan, you’ve gotta be excited about your leading reciever returning in Keyton Chitwood. If Helcher can stay healthy, I think the Panthers will be pretty potent through the air this year. The Panthers goal for this year is to get over .500, and with Thomas Nelson’s defense and Michael Perry’s new offense, I don’t think that goal is out of reach.

 

FYN Sports Top 5 Football Stadiums in Our Viewing Area

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Just here to spark a little bit of fun debate during the off-season! Our writers blind voted on their favorite stadiums in our viewing area, and these were the results. I’m sure everyone will have their own opinion, so let us hear your opinions and what we got wrong!

Each stadium write up is written by a member of the schools community.

1. Fannin County High School

Fannin County High School Football Stadium comes in at #1 on our FYN Sports Top Football Stadium in our Coverage Area.

Although the stadium has no nickname, it is often been referred to in the past as “The Battlefield”

Fannin County may have the best entrance in all of Georgia. The Rebels walk out of their locker-room directly to a gigantic blow up Fannin County Football Helmet.  Coach Cheatham usually is the 1st one to break open the facemask on the helmet and the Fannin County Football team walks onto the field with arms locked. The cannon fires, the smoke rises, music blares, lights go out and then flash from pole to pole. It is a striking entrance and one that every High School Football fan needs to see.

Yes, we mentioned a Cannon. And yes, it does fire. Every time Fannin County enters the stadium and scores a Touchdown the Cannon is shot and is heard throughout the town of Blue Ridge. Yes, we mentioned Lights cutting off and flashing. Every time a Touchdown is scored Fannin County’s LED Light system will flash from pole to pole igniting the roar of the Fannin County 12th man.

Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is played and PA Announcer Tim Towe famous “ITS 3rd DOWN” sparks the Rebel Nation to make noise on 3rd Down.

I think if you witnessed a game here during Fannin County’s magical season last season you would agree with our choice.

The Stadium is a true 12th man Atmosphere. Powered by everything we have mentioned and the award winning Fannin County High School Marching band, the cheerleaders and “The Blue Crew” ( Student Section)  Fannin County is our choice for Top Stadium in our coverage area.

2. Murphy High School

Photo taken by Mark Muir

David Gentry Field at Bob Hedrix memorial stadium is nothing short of picturesque. The location of the stadium is one of it’s best qualities, being right off the road and allowing passers by to honk their car horns and cheer on the Dogs, whether that be on Friday night or Tuesday afternoon at practice. Watching the team walk down the hill at 7:27 on Friday night just before kickoff is electric. The sun setting behind the visiting bleachers on a crisp fall evening is really something to behold. Dont even get me started on the sheer history of what’s been accomplished on that field. 10 state championship teams have played under those lights, and for the past 40 years, perhaps the greatest High School football coach of all time has coached on that sideline. Add to that JR Carrol shouting “1st and 10 Bulldogs” over the speakers, you’ve got a recipe for one of the greatest high school football atmospheres in the country.

Photo taken by MHS Athletics on Facebook

They don’t call it “BULLDOG COUNTRY” for nothin’.

Former Dogs Head Coach & Hall of Famer David Gentry said, “There’s no better high than the one you get on Friday nights in Murphy between the hours of 7:30 & 9:30. That feeling you get for those two hours, it’s unattainable anywhere else.”

3. Robbinsville High School

Robbinsville’s Big Oaks Stadium is a rethink-your-ranking kind of stadium. A truly historical field, it has hosted the home games of over 50 years of Black Knight football teams without ever being moved to a new location. The stadium is also directly adjacent to the original “old rock” schoolhouse of the 1900s.

The field is not the only piece of historical significance—the players themselves, often generational descendants of fellow state champions, give the Friday Night aesthetic of a Robbinsville Black Knights’ football game the aura of dominance. These boys know the magnitude of what they are playing for.

With 14 State Titles earned on its grass, the Big Oaks guarantees you a night of knock-down and drag-out, old-fashioned football, complete with rows of aged-oak trees, and a sunset view over its Smoky Mountain backdrop. Being the true embodiment of the AC/DC rock hit—Back In Black—the Big Oaks Stadium is THE must see stop of any stadium tour.

4. Union County High School

Photo from Chris Mathis

We look to Union County’s Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium a.k.a “The Mike.” There are many great high school football venues; not many, however, pack a 1-2 punch with a beautiful view and electric atmosphere like this one.

Photo from Chris Mathis

This venue offers a beautiful turf field and an even more astounding view of the crisp Blue Ridge Mountains. Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium is one that you’ll never forget, one that provides a bit of everything you could ever want on a Friday night underneath the lights!

5. Pickens County High School

Photo from North Cobb Electrical Services

 

What can there be said about Dragon Stadium? The crowd, the atmosphere, the view? It starts when you pull into Pickens High School with Sharptop Mountain in the background. The sun coming down behind the trees. The Dragons walking down the hill as they make their entrance. The thing about being in a small, mountain community, when the Dragons take the field, it’s the main attraction on Friday nights. There is no doubt, that Dragon Stadium has one of the more picturesque backgrounds in the state of Georgia.

A New Era: Bulldogs Name Joseph Watson as New Head Football Coach

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For the first time since 1983, the powers that be at Murphy High School were tasked with finding a new Head Football Coach. After the shocking news that longtime, Hall of Fame Head Coach, David Gentry was retiring came earlier this week, Bulldog Athletic Director Ray Gutierrez and crew were under the gun to find their new man. However, the search was probably easier than it should have been, as the perfect man for the job was already a life-long Bulldog.

This morning in a live press conference on FYNTV.com, Bulldogs Offensive Coordinator Joseph Watson was named the new Head Coach of the Black and Gold.

Watson, 43, has been on the staff and working alongside David Gentry for nearly 20 years. A Graduate of Murphy High School were he played under Gentry and was a 3 sport star, Watson went on to play college football at Western Carolina University. Since Gentry brought him back to be on the coaching staff at Murphy, he has helped the Dogs win 7 Western Regional Championships and 5 State Titles. What’s more important than all of his accolades as a player or coach? The fact that Coach Gentry recommended him to be his successor.

“My plan at MHS is to continue building the winning tradition that Coach Gentry has set in place already. I’ve dreamed about this moment my whole life.”

More on this story later…

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