Mitchell next for Bulldogs in quest for state title
Murphy – A lot has changed since 2008, especially for the Murphy Bulldogs.
Murphy started that year with a 29-15 victory over the Mitchell Mountaineers and have not seen the squad since then. In their absence, the Bulldogs have racked up two state 1A championships (2011 and 2013), three Western Regional Championships (2010, 2011, 2012) and four Smoky Mountain Conference championships (2008, 2009, 2010, 2016). In addition, Murphy also boasts a 20-game home playoff winning streak.
But the Mountaineers have made great strides since that last meeting, as well. After finishing the 2008 season with a record of 3-8, Mitchell reached the fourth round of the state playoffs in 2010, fell in the 1AA title game last year to Wallace-Rose Hill and split the Western Highlands Conference championship this season.
On paper, the 2016 1A Western Regional Championship game (7:30 p.m. Friday at Bob Hendrix Memorial Stadium) is an even match. Both teams are 13-1 and have outscored their opponents this year by considerable margins (547-154 for Murphy, 540-180 for Mitchell).
So, how will the Bulldogs counter such a formidable opponent? Junior quarterback Ben Young has thrown for 2,342 yards this year, with 27 touchdowns in the air and 1,175 yards on the ground as well. Fellow junior Mountaineer Ben Robinson boasts 1,093 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns to his credit, while junior Brody Smith broke the 1,000-yard barrier on the receiving side and now sits at 1,103 for the year (with 11 touchdowns to flaunt as well).
Murphy will counter with the same approach that it brought to the table in its most recent win (a 35-34 triumph over Mountain Island Charter): a balanced attack. The stats might not put any of the Bulldogs at the forefront of western North Carolina leaders, but the numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
Junior quarterback Joey Curry has completed 100-of-167 passes in the air for 1,634 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has still yet to throw an interception in 2016. Fellow junior Kadrian McRae is 69 yards shy of 1,000 (with 15 touchdowns) in the rushing category, but he is at the head of a pack of Dogs that has seen a total of 17 different Murphy players record yards on the ground this season.
Senior receiver Colton Posey did not see much offensive action against the Raptors, but boasts 652 yards on 42 receptions and seven touchdowns. Throw in the stubborn defense of senior lineman Adam Powell (122 tackles, 49 assists) and Slade McTaggart (100 tackles, 54 assists), and you have all the ingredients for an exciting thriller Friday.
The importance and significance of the game is not lost on Murphy coach David Gentry, who has a western North Carolina-leading 379 career wins to his credit.
“Mitchell doesn’t have the skill of Mountain Island Charter. They’re a different team,” Gentry said. “Every game is different. They’re good in their way, and we’re good in our way.
“I think our kids will come to play. It’ll be a good game.”
Ticket price increases again
The N.C. High School Athletic Association has raised ticket prices at the gate for Friday to $8 due to it being a Western Regional Championship game. Pre-sale tickets for $7 will be available in the Murphy High School office until 3 p.m. on game day.