Dogs, Knights make fools out of MaxPreps rankings
Murphy – So, exactly how is that MaxPreps playoff ranking system working out?
Well, Murphy lost one less game than Mitchell during the regular season, yet received a lower 1A seed (No. 3) than the Mountaineers (No. 2).
Meanwhile, Robbinsville (No. 4) had to travel to face the undefeated Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy Gryphons (No. 1)
Both Mitchell and Thomas Jefferson had no indication of trouble on the horizon, but here we are.
Murphy. Robbinsville. Two Smoky Mountain Conference teams clashing Friday night at Bob Hendrix Stadium. The 1A Western Regional Championship and a spot in the state title game at stake.
It really doesn’t get much bigger than this for football this side of Asheville.
“We really like that we’re playing at home,” Murphy head coach David Gentry said. “I think it’s big to have anybody play us at home for this. It’s special.”
Often touted as the toughest conference in the state, regardless of classification, the Smoky Mountain Conference has established a monopoly over the 1A Western Regional title.
Since 2010, every Western champion has came from the conference.
Murphy has five of those plaques on display inside its gymnasium, including a streak of four straight from 2010-13. The Bulldogs won the 1A state crown in 2011, 2013 and 2016.
Robbinsville won it in both 2014 and 2015, winning the state title the first go-around. Cherokee won its first state crown in 2017.
However, Friday’s showdown is more than a postseason game between two conference opponents: it’s a testament to the fact that an algorithm built on wins and losses, plus difficulty of schedule, means absolutely nothing when the better team takes the field.
“It’s bull that we had to come up here,” Gentry said. “I told the state, ‘We lost to Pisgah, right? The No. 1 seed in 2A. Mitchell lost to Mountain Heritage and Erwin.’ If you just took that alone, who should be playing who and where?
“Talking about the Smoky Mountain Conference … where was Robbinsville ranked? Have they (the state) not looked at state champions from the last 40 years?”
Suffice to say, Murphy is ready.
“Playing at home again means everything to us,” said Murphy junior running back Devonte Murray. “Robbinsville’s a good team; we’re going to have to play them like we played Mitchell.”
“That’s who we want to play,” Murphy’s senior quarterback Micah Nelson added. “We want to be back home, playing them.”
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Friday and tickets are $10. A presale will begin today inside the Murphy High School front office. Only state-issued passes will be accepted.