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

Cats Dethrone The Knights, SMC Title Game Awaits

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Wildcats Beat Robbinsville, Conference Title Game Awaits

Andrews, Nc- It’s been a long time coming, but the Andrews Wildcats will be playing for a Smoky Mountain Conference Championship this Friday night at David Gentry Field in Murphy.

Their last stepping stone to get to the title game was a heavy weight bout vs Robbinsville in which the Cats took care of business as they dropped the Knights by a score of 28-12.

Team Notes

The statistical box score is incomplete for the Wildcats, but its clear that their defense deserves the recognition as they held Robbinsville to just 189 yards of offense. The Wildcat’s defense was able to get in on the scoring as they were able to pick off Bryce Adams for a Pick 6. QB Donovan Bateman had a solid outing as he was 9/13 for 169 yards and a touchdown. RB Austin Martin also had a good game as he ran for 77 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.

As for Robbinsville, their offense never got going in this one. Bryce Adams and Roman Jones combined for just 21 passing yards. Cuttler Adams had a solid showing with 155 yards on 16 carries and was able to score both of the Knights touchdowns. Cuttler Adams also was tied for the team lead with 11 tackles.

Look Ahead

As mentioned, the Wildcats will have a shot at an undefeated regular season and a conference title next week as they travel to Murphy to take on the Bulldogs. As for the Knights, they will travel to Hayesville to take on the 5-4 (1-3) Yellowjackets, as Robbinsville looks to finish third in the conference.

 

Murphy Bulldogs and Robbinsville Black Knights set to Battle Friday Night

Sports, Team FYN Sports, TeamFYNSports

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.

Murphy

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.

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

 

 

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.

Black Knights Win Back To Back Conference Titles

Sports, Team FYN Sports, TeamFYNSports

 

Photo courtesy of BT Douthit

The Murphy Bulldogs and Robbinsville Black Knights faced off in the conference championship game Friday night. Both teams came into the game undefeated looking to secure the top playoff seed in the smoky mountain conference. Yet on this night the Black Knights were the team with better ball security leading to them a 17-7 win.

 

1st Quarter:

The Black Knights won the opening kickoff electing to receive to start the game. It was a good choice as they marched down the field for a great first drive taking an early 7-0 lead. Murphy got the ball on their first drive but quickly went three and out. Robbinsville got the ball back and were driving down the field to end the first quarter. It needs to be mentioned that Murphy only ran three offensives plays in the entire first quarter.

 

2nd Quarter:

Robbinsville continued their second drive of the game to open the second quarter all the way inside the redzone. The Murphy defense held strong though forcing a field goal attempt, that was missed by Robbinsville. Murphy did get a first down on their second drive but that was about it as the Bulldogs had to punt it away. Murphy almost forced a three and out but on 3rd & 20 Nathan Collins found his tight end wide open for a 40 yard gain on what appeared to be a busted coverage by Murphys defense. Robbinsville was able to capitalize on the mistake finishing off the drive with a touchdown to take their lead 14-0. Murphy on their next drive got all the way inside the Robbinsville 10-yard line but fumbled it away to Robbinsville. The defense did step up though forcing a three and out though. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs there punt returner fumbled the ball giving it right back to Robbinsville. Thats how the game went to half with a Robbinsville 14-0 lead.

 

3rd Quarter:

Murphy received the second half kick and had their best play of the game offensively with a Ray Rathburn run all the way into Robbinsville territory. Kellen Rumfelt led the way picking up several big third and fourth downs pickups on the drive. Finishing it off with a huge touchdown pass, on 3rd & 20 Rumfelt throwing a perfect ball to Cole Laney for the touchdown. This is how the third quarter ended, the Bulldogs trailing 14-7. 

 

4th Quarter:

The next scoring action came with a Robbinsville field goal. This made the score 17-7 giving Robbinsville a crucial 17-7 lead. On the ensuing kickoff Murphy muffed the kick giving it right back to Robbinsville, the third Bulldog turnover of the night. The Bulldogs played right with the Black Knights but losing the turnover margin 3-0 proved to be too much for Murphy to overcome. The game finished with Robbinsville forcing Murphy to pass but the Black Knight pass rush was too much to give the Bulldogs any chance. The game finished 17-7, Robbinsville handing Murphy their first loss of the season.

Robbinsville and Murphy set to square off in SMC championship yet again

Sports, Team FYN Sports, TeamFYNSports

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before- The Robbinsville Black Knights and the Murphy Bulldogs are set to play in the Smoky Mountain Conference Championship game this Friday.

These two teams seem to always find each other in the final game of the year, no matter the sport, as of late.

Earlier this year we saw the Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Knights face off in the SMC championship for basketball, and it looks like in the softball world it could be headed in that direction too.

In football, 7 of the last 8 seasons have ended with the Black Knights or the Bulldogs on top of the SMC. If I am not mistaken, the conference has produced 8 state championships since 2011 (Murphy- 4, Robbinsville- 2, Swain 1, Cherokee- 1).

8 State Titles won since 2011. Not even counting the other times teams from the SMC made it to the big game and lost. You can tell by looking at the numbers how important this game is this week, and how large of an impact it has on playoff implications. Winner will be one of the 7 #1 seeds in the state, loser is a #2 seed.

Murphy-

The Bulldogs come into the game undefeated, riding a HOT offense. They will look to avenge last year’s losses to Robbinsville. In the SMC Championship game last year, Murphy fell 17-14. Then when the two teams matched up in the playoffs, Robbinsville won once again with a score of 24-13.

Murphy is looking to turn the page this year however, as they’ve basically ran through the rest of the conference like a wet paper bag.

Murphy’s high powered offense is something to behold. They are averaging 44.5 points per game this year, and are very good at NOT turning over the football. They have only turned the ball over 3 times this year.

The offense is led on the ground by Senior Running Back Ray Rathburn. Rathburn has picked up over 500 yards on the ground this year, while tacking on 8 rushing touch downs and averaging 8 yards per carry.

The Dogs backfield is kind of baffling. You know that Rathburn is the leader, but you really don’t know who is going to get the football. Sophomores John Ledford and Ty Laney are also lethal weapons on the ground. Ledford has 433 yards and 7 touchdowns thus far, while averaging 12 yards per carry. Ty Laney is really coming on as of late. He has 7 touchdowns in the past 2 games, including 4 touchdowns last week against Cherokee.

Junior Quarterback Kellen Rumfelt has also done a phenomenal job this year behind center. Rumfelt is averaging nearly 100 yards a game through the air, which has allowed him to pick up 581 passing yards and 6 passing TDs this year. He also hasn’t thrown an interception on 57 pass attempts.

The Dogs are also a problem for opposing offenses thanks to their stout defense. The defense is led by Senior Linebacker Landon Jordan. Jordan is leading the team in tackles and is the l motor for the team defensively.

The Bulldog D is holding opponents to only 11.5 points per game. Teams are also only converting 3rd downs at a mere 39 percent. Murphy has forced TWENTY turnovers on the year, and they do a great job converting those turnovers into points. Opposing teams are averaging around 150 yards per game on the ground against the Dogs, but they are having absolutely zero luck through the air. The ball-hawking corner back duo of Juan Allen and Payton McCracken along with the rest of the Murphy Defensive Backs coached by Joseph Watson, have intercepted teams 11 times already this year over 6 games.

 

Robbinsville-

The Black Knights also head into this SMC championship game on an absolute roll. They are 6-0, and just like the Bulldogs, they have put up 30 or more points in each game. On paper these two teams look pretty much the same. High powered offenses led by an established run game. What sets the Knights apart is their experience, and their absolute monstrous line play.

Lex Hooper leads the Knights’ running game. He has accumulated over 550 yards on the ground thus far, and also leads the SMC with 12 rushing TDs. He also isn’t just a one dimensional back, Head Coach Dee Walsh uses Hooper’s hands out of the backfield and he’s caught both of Senior QB Nate Collins’ passing TDs this year. The share volume of Hoopers workload in and of itself is impressive- he’s already ran the football over 100 times this year.

Speaking on Senior QB Nathan Collins, he’s also a guy that can hurt you in multiple ways. He has proven that he can get it done on the ground- Averaging 8.2 yards per carry and over 50 yards per game- and also through the air- Averaging 86 yards passing per game at a 60% click. Collins also isn’t afraid to get dirty on defense. He’s picked opposing QBs off 3 times this year, and has over 20 Tackles on the year.

Staying with the Black Knights Defense here, they are led by Senior Defensive End Rossi Wachacha. Wachacha was the FYN sports preseason Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, and he has proved it this year. He is an absolute wrecking ball when he’s on the field. When you see 88 walk out on defense, you can bet that he’s going to make the play. He has 2 sacks and 2 picks on the season, and you just never know where he’s going to be lined up defensively.

Another big part of the Black Knights Defense is Sophomore Cuttler Adams. Adams leads the team in Tackles at 31, and has 2 fumble recoveries and 1 INT. On the offensive side of the ball, Adams serves as the change of pace back when Hooper needs a breather. Adams has picked up 273 yards on the ground this year and scored 5 TDs.

The Robbinsville Defensive and Offensive Lines are incredible. Take a look at these biometrics:

44

Benjamen Wachacha

TE, DE • Jr. • 6′ 5″ • 215 lbs
50

Candler Edwards

G • Sr. • 5′ 10″ • 255 lbs
54

Carlos Lopez

C, DE • So. • 5′ 11″ • 245 lbs
56

Carlos Wesley

T, DT • Jr. • 5′ 11″ • 270 lbs
61

Drake Hill

T, DT • Jr. • 6′ 0″ • 250 lbs
63

David Queen

G, DT • Jr. • 6′ 1″ • 240 lbs
65

Carson White

T, DT • Jr. • 6′ 3″ • 315 lbs
66

Haden Key

DT, G • So. • 6′ 1″ • 265 lbs

 

70

Jacob Teesateskie

T, DT • So. • 6′ 0″ • 300 lbs
72

Westin Smoker

T, DT • Jr. • 6′ 5″ • 220 lbs
76

Judd Shuler

T, DT • So. • 6′ 0″ • 205 lbs
77

Aaron Phillips

T, DT • Sr. • 6′ 2″ • 220 lbs
79

Diego Lopez

T, DT • Jr. • 5′ 11″ • 265 lbs
88

Rossi Wachacha

WR, DE • Sr. • 6′ 2″ • 260 lbs

 

 

That’s an average of about 6’2 250 pounds on a little 1A football team. Absolutely unheard of! Strong, cornfed young men that are going to try to give Murphy 4 star lineman Yousef Mugharbil a run for his money.

This is shaping up to be one of the best conference games we’ve ever seen, and the team here at FYN sports cannot wait. We will be live streaming the game for free for those of you that can’t make it or are unable to get tickets over on FYNTV.com.

 

 

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