By Eric Green, Contributing Writer
It was supposed to be a typical homecoming game against a region foe, but North Murray’s 28-0 win over visiting Adairsville was anything but normal on Friday.
The game was delayed three times by lightning and, after school officials on both sides met, Adairsville (2-3, 1-2) conceded with 5:46 to go in the second quarter, giving the Mountaineers (4-1, 3-0) the win. By that time it was around 11 p.m. Homecoming festivities were rescheduled for the Oct. 11 game against Coahulla Creek.
“Neither one of us needed to get kids hurt,” said North Murray coach Preston Poag. “We kept on bringing the kids back out there and stretching again and after awhile, you’re going to get key players hurt. Neither of us wanted that. I’m close with Coach Bishop (Adairsville coach) and we agreed to do it. That’s how it went down.”
Around 10:15 p.m., public address announcer Joe Ballew warned that a serious weather cell was nearing the area and advised the near capacity crowd to seek shelter. Dozens began filing out almost immediately, though some had gone already. Near 11 p.m., North Murray Principal Maria Bradley came out of the field house and announced to a small crowd seeking shelter in that area, including the homecoming court, that the game was over and homecoming would be rescheduled. Bradley explained that the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) allows region games to be called without makeup if both sides agree to the losing team conceding the game.”
Coming off the biggest win in program history against Calhoun two weeks ago, the North Murray coaching staff was anxious to avoid a letdown against an Adairsville team that had shown only glimpses of success in the early season. Friday night would have been a prime time for a letdown, too, considering all the distractions, but the Mountaineers passed the test, dominating Adairsville when there was actual action on the field.
“I was worried all week. How are we going to respond after the biggest win in school history,” Poag said. “Everybody has been talking about us and patting us on the back. As a head coach, I’m thinking ‘how are we going to respond with this senior-led team. I was proud to see we were focused.”
The Mountaineer defense sacked the Tiger quarterback four times and held Adairsville to just one first down in what boiled down to a quarter and a half. The Mountaineer offense scored on every possession.
“Any time you come in three times from a lightning delay you have to turn to your leadership,” said senior quarterback Ladd McConkey. “We have 20-something seniors and you have to stay focused like we never left the field. It takes a lot do to that. The coaches said stay focused because whoever can stay focused during the break would win.”
Adairsville got the ball to start the game and ran just one play before the play was halted on the first lightning delay of the night, with 11:26 to go in the opening quarter. That was at 7:33 p.m. Play resumed at 8:49 p.m. North Murray sacked the quarterback on the next two plays and the Tigers punted.
McConkey returned the punt to the Adairsville 29-yard-line. On the first play of the drive, McConkey kept it himself and ran it in for a touchdown. The point after was good and it was quickly 7-0, Mountaineers.
Adairsville’s Savaun Henderson returned the ensuing kickoff to the Mountaineer 49-yard line, but the Tigers were not able to capitalize on the good field position, going three and out. By that time, the Mountaineers had held Adairsville to negative rushing yards.
Playing without the services of injured D’Ante Tidwell (leg injury), the Mountaineers looked to spread the wealth in the backfield on their second drive. Senior fullback/linebacker Dylan Flood took a handoff up the middle on the first play and raced 57-yards to the Tiger 15-yard-line to put the Mountaineers in business. Two plays later, junior Noah Lunsford ran it in from the 9-yard-line for a Mountaineer TD. Following the PAT, it was 14-0.
North Murray again held Adairsville to a three-and-out and North Murray got the ball on their own 17. McConkey threw an interception on the opening play and Adairsville’s Eli Agnew returned it to the Mountaineer 46. The Mountaineers forced a three and out, which included another sack by the North Murray defense.
The Mountaineers then mounted their longest drive of the night, a nine-play jaunt that featured a Johnny Manziel-esque improvisational act by McConkey. The shifty McConkey rolled to his right and, facing pressure, was forced to retreat to his left, facing an almost certain sack. A crowd of Tiger defenders closed in on him at the near sideline, but he was able to flick the ball over their heads to an open Gunnar Thomason, who managed to gain 17-yards. The drive culminated in a 15-yard touchdown pass from McConkey to Hayden Hulett. The Mountaineers were up 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began with a lightning delay, which started at 9:18 p.m. and lasted until 9:59. When play resumed, the Tigers went three-and-out again. North Murray matched its earlier nine-play drive that began at their own 35-yard line, and ended with an 8-yard touchdown by Lunsford. The Mountaineers had been on their heels midway through the drive, before McConkey found Landon Burrell for a 30-yard pass.
Adairsville mounted its most effective drive of the night following the Mountaineer score, but play was again halted at the 5:46 mark of the second quarter
and the teams never touched the field again.
“It was a very odd game,” Burrell said. “It was one of the oddest we have played. A lot of people were talking, asking ‘are we really that good’, but I think we made a point. We only go up from here.”
McConkey finished 3-for-4 through the air for 62 yards, while carrying the ball six times for 46 yards.
Flood had three carries for 71 yards and Lunsford had 10 carries for 62 yards.
The Mountaineers will travel to crosstown rival Murray County next week in a region contest. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.