By Jimmy Espy, General Manager
North Murray’s offense was all over the place last Friday but the Mountaineer defense was rock solid in a 24-7 win over the visiting Model Blue Devils.
North Murray defenders held Model to fewer than 100 yards total offense and picked off two passes. The victors’ lone touchdown came on an 11-yard drive after a North Murray turnover.
“We put our defense in a lot of bad situations by turning the ball over,” said Coach Preston Poag. “The defense saved us. It was an ugly win.”
Ugly or not, the victory evened the Mountaineers’ record at 1-1 going into the first region game of the year at Ringgold on Friday.
Model fell to 0-3.
The “ugly” in Friday night’s game came in several forms. Most irritating to Poag and his coaching staff were the multiple penalties the team committed against a clearly weaker team.
North Murray was hit with four 15-yard penalties and a couple of five-yarders. Model was penalized seven times in a game that saw an abundance of yapping between plays.
Freshman quarterback Seth Griffin made his debut as a starter, filling in for injured senior quarterback Ladd McConkey, who hopes to return against Ringgold.
For Griffin it was a night of extremes. At times he looked like what he was, a struggling freshman in his first start. But then the youngster would make a play that flashed his considerable potential.
Griffin saw just abut everything go wrong that could — sacks, fumbles, an interception — but the freshman stepped up and delivered some huge plays.
None was bigger than when Griffin hit Landon Burrell in stride for a 93-yard TD pass that stunned Model in the second quarter. Owen Hannah’s ensuing PAT kick tied the game at 7-7.
The Mountaineers made it 14-7 late in the half by driving 80 yards on eight plays. Griffin’s 27-yard strike to Kade Greeson delivered a key first down. That play was followed by D’Ante Tidwell’s terrific catch for a 35-yard gain. Tidwell did the scoring honors on a five-yard run behind a surging offensive line.
Mountaineer mistakes kept Model in the game until late. Owen Hannah’s 34-yard field goal stretched the lead to 17-7 with 4:45 left in the game.
The Mountaineers found the end zone one more time. Griffin connected with Burrell again for a 30-yard TD at the 1:26 mark. Hannah added the PAT.
Griffin finished with 263 yards passing on 10 of 20 attempts. He threw two TDs and one interception.
“I am proud of him,” Poag said of Griffin. “It’s hard to play quarterback as a freshman. The game is so much faster than what he has seen. He made a lot of mistakes, but he made some big plays.”
Poag showed a lot of confidence in his young quarterback, even as Griffin’s early game mistakes piled up. Instead of becoming more conservative, the Mountaineers remained aggressive.
“That’s our offense,” Poag said. “Seth is confident throwing the ball and they had stopped our running game. We had to play that way.”
Tidwell finished with 66 yards on 18 carries but overall the ground game totalled only about 60 yards due to big losses on quarterback sacks.
Burrell excelled at wide receiver, hauling in five catches for 132 yards and two scores.
Model never got its offense untracked against a hard-hitting North Murray defense.
The Blue Devils rushed for scant yardage and their passing game yielded 42 yards and a pair of interceptions. Tidwell and linebacker Chaisen Buckner had the pickoffs.
Model only managed four first downs, one of those courtesy of a 15-yard penalty.
For the game, Model had four possessions which started in North Murray territory. They were only able to cash in one of those opportunities for points.
Model’s big, mobile quarterback was only sacked once, but he was harried by pass rushers much of the game.
Photo by Scott Kuhn