By Erik Green
There’s a simple and sensible phrase coaches like to use when summarizing their gameplan: get the ball to the playmakers and let them make plays.
North Murray’s Ladd McConkey exemplified the concept on Friday night in the Mountaineers’ 49-6 homecoming win over region rival Coahulla Creek. The senior quarterback and defensive back took part in all seven North Murray touchdowns, rushing for two scores, passing for two, returning two punts for touchdowns, and taking an interception back for a TD. The scoring outburst helped the Mountaineers continue their march toward a region title; with a win this week against Haralson County in Tallapoosa, North Murray would be all alone in first place in Region 6-AAA, controlling its own destiny with two games remaining. The win was North Murray’s eighth straight over Coahulla Creek and made the Mountaineers 6-1 overall and 5-0 in Region 6-AAA.
“Games like this worry you sometimes,” said North Murray coach Preston Poag. “Playing teams that haven’t won a lot of games in the last few years, as a head coach, you worry about how you’ll come out and play. We were a little sluggish at first but made a lot of big plays. Ladd made a lot of big plays, and we played really good defense at times. It was a good effort. We’re sitting at 6-1 and I am proud of them.”
The Mountaineers’ opening drive was marred by penalties, one of which led to a touchdown run being negated by a flag. North Murray did get on the board with 3:56 to go in the opening quarter on McConkey’s first punt return for a TD. D’Ante Tidwell, back from injury, intercepted a pass on Coahulla Creek’s next drive and North Murray was in business again. On the ensuing drive, McConkey found Seth Griffin on a 32-yard pass for a touchdown and following the point after, the Mountaineers led 14-0.
Coahulla Creek’s Colts mounted several sustained drives in the quarter but were unable to come away with points. The Mountaineers started the second quarter with a four-play scoring drive, set up by a long pass from McConkey to Hayden Hulett, who shook off a defender to reach the 10-yard line. From there, McConkey took the next snap, bobbled it, and then recovered to score a rushing TD. After the PAT, it was 21-0.
Hulett followed his timely reception on offense with a sack on defense on the next Coahulla Creek drive, which would end in a punt. McConkey was intercepted on the next play and Coahulla Creek (1-5, 0-4) again mounted a nice, seven play drive but turned the ball over on downs. McConkey was intercepted again on the next play, but the Colts still could not capitalize. Apparently frustrated by back-to-back interceptions, McConkey took the next Coahulla Creek punt back for his second return of the contest as time expired in the half. The Mountaineers led 28-0 at the break.
“We did a lot of good things,” Poag said. “We’re still getting way too many penalties. We should have had more points. We had one called back and some big plays called back on penalties. We have to keep working on that. The effort is there, but we still hold, at times, on big plays.”
The homecoming festivities Friday finally got underway after being rescheduled from a Sept. 27 game because of inclement weather. Hayden Bargeron was named homecoming king that night while Gracie Grant was crowned queen on Friday night.
When the teams returned to the field, the Mountaineers continued their dominance. McConkey capped off a seven play drive with a 19-yard touchdown run with 9:42 to go in the third and it was 35-0.
North Murray scored again with 3:31 in the third when McConkey found Kade Greeson on a two-yard pass, extending the lead to 42-0 after the PAT. McConkey ended the North Murray scoring drives a short time later with an interception return for a touchdown. Following the point after, North Murray’s lead was an insurmountable 49-0.
“Ladd is just a playmaker,” Poag said. “When the ball is in his hands, he makes a lot of good plays. Not just at quarterback, but at DB and returner.”
Coahulla Creek got on the board with a 53-yard run by Tyler Locklear with 2:39 left in the game. The point after was no good and the final tally was set, 49-6.
“It was a great night,” McConkey said. “We’ve still got things to fix, but overall, we played with a lot of effort. We played pretty well, I feel like.”
The Mountaineers will prepare this week for a tough Haralson County team that features a throwback, single-wing offense, and a downhill, smash-mouth type of football.
“It’s hard to prepare for that offense,” Poag said. “They are just foot to foot, pull everybody, and last year we couldn’t stop them, so like coach (Bill) Mitchell told them, that game has stuck around since last year. Their running back had a bunch of yards on us, but we still should have won that game. We’ve got to work hard and we’ll be jacked up to play.”