Murphy cements status as team of the decade
Durham – Since the dawn of the 2010s, the Murphy Bulldogs have reached the state championship football game six times. On four of those occasions, Murphy has brought home the top hardware in North Carolina.
The Dogs were up to their old tricks in their latest venture Saturday, thumping the Pamlico County Hurricanes 60-27 in the 1A finale at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham. The state crown was the ninth in school history and the eighth in 1A, as Murphy’s first championship in 1974 came at the 2A level.
“Any team that wins a state championship is a special team,” said Murphy head coach David Gentry, who concludes his 35th season with the Bulldogs. “It never gets old. It’s so exciting to be here and win another one.”
The win was No. 406 for Gentry, who needs just six more victories to tie the all-time North Carolina coaching wins leader, the late Jack Holley. When questioned about his status for 2019, Gentry, who turns 73 in March, let the question linger before answering.
“If I told you, there wouldn’t be any suspense, would there?” Gentry said, breaking up the room. “I say the same thing every year, you know that. I take some time off, a month or two, and look at it, look at what I have to do.
“It’s extremely hard work and very time consuming, if you want to do it right. Right now, I’m coming back. I’m always coming back until I tell you that I’m not.”
Murphy won it all in 1974, 1986, 1987, 1991 and 1996, before starting its dominance this decade. The Bulldogs reached the finals in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2018.
This season, Murphy outscored opponents 583-198 and outgained the competition 4,725-1,795 on the ground. After losing the season opener at Pisgah 14-8, the Bulldogs won 13 straight games and only Mitchell, Murphy’s third-round opponent, came within single digits of derailing the campaign.
“That game defined our season,” Gentry said of the 33-29 win over the Mountaineers. “We were down two touchdowns at Mitchell, a very hard place to play. We got back in the wing-T, and that’s what we are. That’s what we became. We ran very little spread stuff during our last three games; we just pounded people with our offensive line and our running backs.”
Pamlico gave up at least 60 points in both its losses this season, as the Hurricanes fell to the Tarboro Vikings 61-0 on Oct. 12. Tarboro, which put up 60 or more points seven times this year, won the 1AA championship with a 50-10 rout of the East Surry Cardinals on Saturday.
“They’re very fast,” Gentry said of the Hurricanes, who were playing in their first state final. “Murray and Savon Tutt were as fast as anybody we’ve seen. But we knew they had speed. They didn’t seem as physical as the mountain teams, but that’s what we pride ourselves in.
“You’ve got to have good players and they’ve got good players. I think they’ll be back (in the finals) next year.”