McConkey joins Georgia Bulldogs

BY ERIK GREEN, Sports editor

When Ladd McConkey stepped onto campus at North Murray as a freshman, he was tiny, and some might say, brittle. No one except McConkey would have imagined a day in which he would sign to play football at a powerhouse like the University of Georgia. That’s because, as his basketball coach Tim Ellis put it, “no challenge is too big for Ladd McConkey.” On Feb. 5, National Signing Day, McConkey did, indeed, sign a letter of intent to play for the Bulldogs. McConkey, listed as a three star receiver by Rivals.com, is expected to compete for playing time at receiver and, most likely, kick returner. “You talk about him as a freshman, he weighed 110 pounds,” said North Murray football coach Preston Poag. “Now, all the big schools are after him. All the football stuff is great — he has done a lot of special things — but the person he is is what will carry him. I mean that by his hard work, playing with a chip on his shoulder, just getting after it every day. It has carried him along in high school and he’ll have to keep that up at one of the best teams and programs in the country. He will work his tail off and be successful.” During the season, McConkey played quarterback for the Mountaineers. He rushed for 924 yards and 10 touchdowns while passing for 1,771 yards and 20 touchdowns. McConkey led the Mountaineers to an 11 win season, their first Region 6-AAA title, and a trip to the quarterfinals. McConkey had received interest from schools like South Alabama, Jacksonville State, Mercer, and others before Georgia came into the picture. Georgia coach Kirby Smart came to town several weeks ago to watch McConkey play with the Mountaineer basketball team. Courting began in earnest after that and, despite getting some looks from other SEC schools, McConkey decided on the Dawgs. “It’s amazing to be signing with the University of Georgia,” McConkey said. “They’re prestigious both academically and athletically. It really is something special.” McConkey will once again have to prove himself at the University of Georgia like he did as an undersized freshman at North Murray. It didn’t take him very long to do that, however, as he’s been a mainstay in the Mountaineer starting lineup most of his high school career at one positon or another. He will take his talent, work ethic, and what has been described as an iron will into camp with the Dawgs and see what happens. “It’s like anything else,” he said. “I’ll go at it with a full head of steam and put everything I have into it. That’s all I can do and everything else will play out how it plays out.” McConkey said he is leaning toward a finance otball once basketball season comes to an end, conditioning, lifting, and looking to bulk up a few pounds. He’s listed at 6’, 180 lbs by Rivals, though he is closer to 165 lbs. While Georgia’s Smart gave McConkey no guarantees, he will be able to compete for a shot at the field as a freshman. “He says I will have every opportunity to come in and play,” McConkey said. “I have to make the most of it, being physically ready, and mentally ready. It’s a whole new level and I realize that so I will have to come ready and prepared.” McConkey is the third North Murray player in two years to sign with a major FBS program. Last year, Luke Griffin signed at Missouri and this season McConkey’s teammate Chaisen Buckner inked with Navy during the early signing period. It’s something that the North Murray family is very proud of, according to principal Maria Bradley. “We are so excited for all of Ladd’s opportunities,” said Bradley, herself a Georgia grad. “Ladd is a kid, too, that will seize an opportunity. He had some offers from other places, yet he realized the extent that Georgia went to and the courtesy they offered him and the opportunities they were giving him. They really courted him and he decided to go with the person who wanted him the most. It’s a great school.”

 

 

McConkey joins Bulldogs

North Murray standout Ladd McConkey committed to play football for the University of Georgia this weekend after visiting Athens. McConkey is expected to play wide receiver for the Bulldogs, who finished the 2019 season as the nation’s No. 4 ranked program.

See the Chatsworth Times on Wednesday for a full story.

Napier gets contract extension

Chatsworth High School graduate Billy Napier this week received a two-year contract extension from the University of Louisiana-LaFayette.

Napier’s team has a 10-3 record this season and is set to play Miami of Ohio in the LendingTree Bowl on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

Napier is in his second season as head coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns and has an overall record of 17-10.

The two-year contract extension ties him to UL-L through 2025.

Napier graduated from MCHS in 1998. He played quarterback for his father, the late Bill Napier.

(See the Chatsworth Times on Wednesday for more details.)

 

 

Lederer fills many roles for NM

 

BY ERIK GREEN

Sometimes the term “glue guy” is used to describe a player known for his intangibles and not much else. He might be a nice kid without much talent, but the other players like him and he holds the team together. This isn’t the case for North Murray’s “glue guy” Ethan Lederer.

He is, indeed, a good guy who keeps the team rolling, but he’s also a talented basketball player and a big reason why the Mountaineers are a threat to win the region for the second year in a row.

“He’s a kid that just is in the shadows, I guess you could say,” said North Murray coach Tim Ellis. “He just plays basketball so he works on it year-round and he’s a kid that has really stepped up and been a big part of the success these guys have had. He is a hard worker and a kid that has the biggest heart in the world, is a great teammate, and doesn’t care about who gets credit. That’s all these kids, really, but he epitomizes it. He goes out there and does his job.”

The 6’2” Lederer is a quiet, unassuming, kid who was the centerpiece for the Mountaineers in the first three games of the season when many of the star players were occupied by the football playoffs. Even though the Mountaineers lost those early basketball games, the experience gave Lederer, a senior, the chance to stand out and take on a leadership role.

“A lot of times these kids feel like they need to take a step back whenever they’re on a team that’s got a lot of kids that have a big reputation,” Ellis said. “That’s why we went ahead and played those non-region games because I wanted kids like him, Ty Kendrick, and Landon Ledford to be thrust into the role of the workhorse and the guy who has to carry the load.”

Lederer said he was glad to step up and take a lead role during that stretch.

“It was tough but it made me develop into a leader,” he said. “Now that we’ve got the football guys back we’re rolling. You can tell there is a big difference. The guys that are starters, we’ve been playing together since we were five or six years old. You can tell that the chemistry is really clicking.”

Lederer has a tight-end’s body and he can beat and bang in the low-post as a power forward, but his skill set is multipurpose, Ellis said. He can score near the basket or on step out and shoot, which makes his versatility extremely dangerous to the opposition.

“He is one of those guys who, in a scheme with taller players, would be a two-guard because he shoots it so well,” Ellis said. “For us, in the region we play in, and the classification, he’s going to have to bang and do those things defensively, but he creates a mismatch for other teams because he can step out and shoot it well. He has gotten better mixing it up offensively. Defensively he does a great job of rebounding.”

Lederer is part of a heralded senior class whose exploits on the athletic fields have been well documented. The entire starting lineup is comprised of seniors. After the bulk of the starters returned from football, the Mountaineers rolled off five wins in a row, including a victory over rival Murray County. The Mountaineers have a ton of experience and, while still getting their sea legs under them, should be peaking at the right time come January. Lederer should continue to be a focal point.

“We need him to do a great job on the defensive end,” Ellis said. “He is (also) that kid we still expect to put points on the board. In the last five games he has led us in two or three of them in scoring.”

Lederer has been playing basketball since his youth and, despite playing other sports, decided to focus on basketball for his senior year. It’s the pace of the game that has kept his interest through the years, he said, and he hopes to continue playing basketball on the next level if possible. Right now, though, Lederer’s focus is helping his team push through a tough region schedule and make a playoff run.

“Our region is crazy,” he said. “It’s anybody’s region. Everybody seems to reload every year. It’s really a competitive region, probably one of the best in AAA to be honest.”

Waterfowl hunting rules have changed

WATERFOWL HUNTERS: REVIEW REGULATION CHANGES

 

SOCIAL CIRCLE – With waterfowl hunting season opening Sat., Nov. 23, duck hunters should make note of some changes in this year’s hunting regulations, according to experts with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD).

“There are three big changes in the waterfowl hunting regulations this year” said WRD state waterfowl biologist Greg Balkcom.  “The waterfowl season now has a fixed ending date of January 31, the bag limit on mallards has been reduced to two, and the hunting season frameworks – the season length and total bag limits – are now set based on the combined status of four species, not just the status of Eastern Mallards.”

Duck season dates are Nov. 23-Dec. 1, and Dec. 12 – Jan. 31.  Full migratory bird hunting regulations can be found at https://georgiawildlife.com/hunting/waterfowl.

More about the changes

  • Season End Date: Hunter surveys indicate that hunters want the season to run as late as possible, and now the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed for a fixed ending date of January 31.  Additionally, the majority of Georgia’s waterfowl hunters prefer a fixed ending date. So, in the foreseeable future, waterfowl hunting seasons will end on January 31, regardless of the day of the week.

  • Mallard Bag Limit: Because of declines in the mallard population in the northeastern U.S. as measured by the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey, the mallard bag limit in the Atlantic Flyway has been reduced to two.  More information on the Mallard population decline can be found at https://georgiawildlife.com/migratory-bird-info (select the “Management” link).

  • Duck Season Framework: Since 2000, the Atlantic Flyway has used the status of Eastern Mallards to select the duck season frameworks (season length and total bag limit), but beginning this year, the season framework is based on the combined status of four species: American green-winged teal, wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, and common goldeneye.  These species are important to hunters up and down the Atlantic Flyway, and they represent a suite of habitats found within the flyway.  More information on the methods used to select the duck season frameworks can be found at https://georgiawildlife.com/migratory-bird-info (select the “Management” link).

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Dates are Nov. 16-17. On these two days, youth age 16 or younger may hunt specific migratory birds, such as ducks, Canada geese and mergansers, as long as they are accompanied by an adult of at least 18 years of age (only the youth may hunt).

To hunt waterfowl in Georgia you will need a Georgia hunting license, a Georgia migratory bird license, and a federal duck stamp (now available when you purchase your other recreational licenses).  WRD has made your purchase decision even easier by the creation of the Waterfowl Hunter Package at www.GoOutdoorsGeorgia.com, which includes all you need (and includes a convenient plastic card).

For more information on Georgia Hunting Regulations for waterfowl, visit https://georgiawildlife.com/migratory-bird-info.

Mountaineers earn championship

By Jimmy Espy, General Manager

jimmy.espy@chatsworthtimes.com

FORT OGLETHORPE –  North Murray made school history on Friday, claiming its first-ever region championship by crushing Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 31-0.

But the Mountaineers, who finish their regular season at home on Friday against Sonoraville, are not satisfied. Nor are they ahead to the playoffs.

“One game at a time,” said wide receiver Landon Burrell, as his teammates celebrated on Friday. “That’s how we’re going  at it.”

“This is something we’ve never done before and we’re proud to bring it (the region 6-AAA title) to our school.”

The Mountaineers (8-1, 7-0 in the region) shut out LFO, but the Warriors did not go down without a fight — literally. The game turned nasty for a brief time in the third quarter after a sideline hit on Mountaineer quarterback Ladd McConkey in front of the North Murray bench. Harsh words and shoves were exchanged between players and the makings of a brawl were in place as North Murray coaches tried to restore order. The arrival of LFO coaches made matters worse when they got into a shouting match with their North Murray counterparts.

Loud, unpleasant suggestions were exchanged before the referees and common sense restored order.

The brouhaha fired up players and fans on both sides but did little to help LFO dig out of the 17-0 hole the Warriors were burrowed into at the time.

The scoring

McConkey, as he has done most of the season, sparked the Mountaineer offense.

The senior threw three touchdown passes and ran for another.

Putting him out of the game seemed to be a top priority of the  Warriors, but they failed to do so and McConkey made them pay, though he had some troubles of his own. He threw a bad interception in the first quarter and lost the ball on a fumble in the second quarter.

Those miscues helped keep the score deadlocked at 0-0 until the 3:04 mark of the second quarter when McConkey dashed 40 yards for a touchdown.

Owen Hannah’s PAT made it 7-0.

The Mountaineers got sneaky and followed with an onside kick which Chaisen Buckner recovered at the LFO 38.

It was Buckner who did the scoring honors, hauling in a short pass from McConkey and accelerating past the safety for a 22-yard TD play.

Hannah added the PAT.

The Warriors should have been able to run out the half but instead gifted the Mountaineers three more points when Burrell recovered a fumble.

A penalty on LFO and a 15-yard run by McConkey set up Hannah for a 34-yard field goal. It was the young kicker’s sixth successful boot in as many tries this season.

The third quarter hubbub could have distracted the Mountaineers from the task at hand but didn’t.

The defense, in particular, stayed focused.

NM stretched the lead to 24-0 on a 11-play, 74-yard drive, highlighted by McConkey and D’Ante Tidwell’s collaboration.

An 18-yard McConkey to Tidwell pass was a key play. So was a 26-yard run by McConkey and a 15-yarder by Tidwell.

The duo teamed for the TD on a six-yard slant pass that McConkey stuck between the 2 and the 3 on Tidwell’s jersey.

North Murray closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter when McConkey hit Burrell with a 36-yard connection.

“Our kids played hard,” said Coach Preston Poag. “They worked hard for this championship and I couldn’t be more proud of this group of seniors.”

Statistics

McConkey had 148 yards on 13 carries. He added 128 passing yards, connecting on 12 of 16 attempts. For the season, he has 14 passing touchdowns and seven rushing TDs.

D’Ante Tidwell added 61 yards on the ground. As a team, the Mountaineers piled up 263 rushing yards. Tidwell added four catchs for 25 yards.

Landon Burrell caught two passes for 48 yards.

“We started slow,” said Poag. “But we kept playing hard. We’ve got to cut out the turnovers.”

North Murray surrendered three fumbles and an interception.

Mountaineer line powers the attack

By Erik Green, Contributing Writer

Here’s one for you: name the greatest offensive lineman of all time. No luck? How about one offensive lineman on your favorite team?

If you went 0-for-2, don’t feel bad. It’s not a glamorous position. There aren’t any meaningful stats for kids to memorize. You’d be hard pressed to find any bronze statues erected in honor of an offensive linemen. The only time you hear about them, generally, is when they’re slapping themselves on the head for committing a penalty. However, if you follow the NFL, you know that they are often some of the highest paid players and the best are selected early in the first round of the first year player draft. They’re often monstrously large, and while some are gentle giants, others would be your worst nightmare in an alleyway. It’s traditionally been a position for slow, chubby kids, but if you’ve ever seen La’el Collins of the Dallas Cowboys running out on a lead block, you’d know that is just not true anymore. Though largely anonymous, an offensive lineman is one of the most important, and increasingly skilled, players on the field.

“Coming out here, we’ve got so many weapons on the field,” said offensive tackle Cameron Shook. “It starts up front, though. If we get things right on the line, we’re golden.”

Head coach Preston Poag had this to say about each of his starting five offensive linemen:

Center Aaron McCurdy (SR): “It starts up front with “Boots,” Aaron McCurdy. He’s a good player, a smart player. You have to have a smart player at center.”

Guard Alex Dixon (SR): “Alex started last year. He’s a little under sized but plays hard.” Dixon’s dad Bob has been a long-time North Murray community coach.

Tackle Hayden Jones (SR): “He played guard and tackle some. He can play both. He’s a high energy guy that gets after it. He’s going 100 miles an hour.” Jones’ father Casey has been a community coach for a long time as well.

Guard Carter Reynolds (JR): “Carter is a new starter for us. We started him after a couple of games for us this year and he stepped in and played really well.”

Tackle Cameron Shook (SR): Cameron has played a lot of football. He has grown so much toughness-wise since he’s been here.”

“Most of them have been playing together all four years,” Poag said. “I couldn’t be happier. They grind. Boots plays both ways all the time and that’s hard to do on the line. They all work good together. They’ve played a lot of games together and they work hard every day. One thing is they know how to practice. They’re good leaders for the team, too.”

At North Murray, the superstar is quarterback Ladd McConkey, who will be playing on Saturdays somewhere next fall. He would be the first to tell you, however, that his veteran offensive line is, at least, partially responsible for his success.

“They’ve come such a long way,” McConkey said. “All of them are so close, like brothers. Even if I get knocked down or they mess up, they pick me up (and take the blame). That goes a long way with me knowing that they’ve got my back. They hate messing up and they’re going to fix it.”

D’Ante Tidwell is North Murray’s featured running back, an elusive runner that is dangerous when he gets into the open field. He attributes his success to the big guys up front as well.

“They’re wonderful,” Tidwell said. “Best offensive line around. They put in the hard work and dedication in practice.”

The Mountaineer offensive line has paved the way for three runners to eclipse the three hundred yard rushing mark so far this year, according to stats provided by North Murray. All running backs combined have accounted for more than 1,500 yards on the ground, which equates to better than 180 yards per game. Four quarterbacks or running backs have thrown passes this year for the Mountaineers and have accounted for more than 1,000 yards through the air, another testament to the offensive line’s ability to protect then man with the ball.

Offensive lines are often reflections of their position coach. The same can be said for the Mountaineer front this year. Offensive line coach John Seabolt is a bit reserved, a bit soft spoken, much like the members of his unit, none of whom would be called out for being a blabbermouth. Seabolt is deliberate in his expectations for his players and his lunch-pail work ethic is characteristic of the young men in his charge, he said.

“Their effort has been great all year long.” Seabolt said of the senior laden offensive line. “I’ve been proud of this group so far. They’re a bunch of selfless players. Really, the whole team is selfless. I’ve been really impressed with everything they’ve been doing.”

The day in and day out preparation can be a grind, but the Mountaineer line has been together for so long, they enjoy the chance to work with one another.

“We come out with a lot of enthusiasm,” Shook said. “We don’t really dread practice. We do what has to be done to get better every day.”

As the Mountaineers close in on the first region title in school history and, undoubtedly, the best record in school history, fans will, no doubt, remember the contributions of a veteran offensive line that paved the way to success.

“We’ve got a great group of seniors,” said Seabolt, who played his high school ball at Rome High and is in his first year at North Murray. “They’re doing a good job of leading the team and setting the example and standard for North Murray in the future.”

McConkey dazzles in 49-6 win over Coahulla Creek

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.”

Scoring Recap

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.”

‘We’re gonna get this’

By Jimmy Espy, General Manager

The Murray County Indians picked up their first road win of the season on Friday, thanks to a standout special teams play and some gutty play calling.

Cade Petty’s block of an extra point attempt in overtime preserved a 17-16 victory over the winless Ringgold Tigers.

Petty, a jack-of-all-trades player, crashed in from the right side of the defense to get a hand on the kick. The block ended the game and set off a raucous celebration by the Indians, who had been in grave danger of letting a badly-needed win get away.

“I just tried to come off the ball as fast as I could,” said Petty. “Our line did its job and opened up a lane for me.”

The win rewarded a bold play call by Coach Chad Brewer. Brewer’s decision to go for it on fourth and 2 in overtime instead of kicking a field goal was a huge call.

“The kids told me they could get it,” Brewer said. “The offensive line looked me in the eye and told me ‘We’re gonna get this!’ so I said ‘Do it.’”

The line bulldozed Ringgold off the ball for a four-yard gain and  crucial first down, setting up Petty’s touchdown and what turned out to be Elber Romero’s game-winning PAT kick.

The Indians improved to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the Region 6-AAA, with three region games left to play.

“We have to win our last three games,” said Brewer. “That should get us the fourth playoff spot. It’s not going to be easy, but last year at this time we were 0-7, this year we’re fighting for the playoffs.

Ringgold, injury-riddled and 0-7 on the year, gave the Indians all they could handle.

Murray’s passing game showed some zip. Kaleb Jones completed six of six passes, including a 43-yard TD pass to Davis Redwine.

But the running game faltered. Murray rushed for a paltry 47 yards.

Petty and Jones took turns running the attack but neither had much success on the ground.

“We’ve very inconsistent,” said Brewer.  “Some of it is our offensive line being inconsistent,  but our quarterbacks are also missing some reads. We’ve got to get better.”

Scoring

The Indians jumped out 7-0 in the first quarter. A short punt by the Tigers put Murray in business at the Ringgold 44. Carson Voiles pounded inside for a yard before Jones found Redwine behind the cornerback. The throw hit Redwine in stride and he bolted 43 yards for the score.

Romero drilled the PAT.

Romero got the call again on the next possession.

Murray took over at the Tiger 39-yard-line when Tyler Hayes recovered a fumble.

Runs by Petty, Jones and Voiles move the ball to the Tiger 17 before a couple of false start penalties bogged down the drive.

Romero came in and punched through a 35-yarder for a 10-0 advantage.

Excellent defense, including a fine interception by cornerback Jason Rice, looked like it would make that lead stand up until halftime. But disaster struck with just over one minute to go before the intermission.

The Indians had the ball, first and 10, at their 13 but instead of running out the clock they gave up a fumble. The error proved costly when the Tiger quarterback ran eight yards for a touchdown.

Instead of going to the dressing room working on a 10-0 shutout, the Indians left the field with a precarious lead and a suddenly fired up opponent.

Ringgold outgassed Murray for much of the second half.

The Tigers had some success pounding the ball with 205-pound Price Pennington, but the Murray defense kept making key plays, including a pass interception by Wally Underwood that stopped a third-quarter drive.

Ringgold did finally get the equalizer. The Tigers tied the game at 10-10 on a 46-yard field goal.

Regulation play ended with the ball at the Ringgold 2, thanks to a superb 59-yard punt by Gauge Stanley.

Overtime

Murray opened overtime with possession and made the most of it, though the Tigers gave ground grudgingly.

Facing a fourth and one at the Ringgold 5, Brewer could not have been blamed if he had motioned for his reliable kicker. But Romero remained on the sideline.

Instead, with Cade Petty in at quarterback, the Indians ran a quarterback sneak. Petty bulled for four yards and the first down. The Indians followed with the same play and Petty scored. The offensive line, which had been played to a stalemate or worse all night, won the battle at the line of scrimmage on those two crucial runs. Romero’s PAT was true for a 17-10 lead.

Ringgold wasted no time getting the ball in the hands of Pennington. The rugged back blasted 15 yards through the Murray defense for the TD, silencing the Murray sideline and igniting the home crowd.

But that jubilation turned to silence when Petty stormed through and got a hand on the kick.

“This was a great team win,” Petty said. “Even when they scored, I had faith in my guys to do their job. It was a great win by the whole team.”

Statistics

Linebacker Gauge Stanley had an outstanding game, racking up 16 tackles, including five tackles for loss … Kaleb Jones was six for six passing for 93 yards … Carson Voiles got his most work of the season, but had his least success. The bruising runner managed 21 yards on eight carries … Taylor Carrell added nine tackles.

Up next

Powerful Calhoun (5-1, 3-1) comes to town for a 7:30 p.m. showdown.

The Yellow Jackets, averaging almost 30 points a game, will present a strong challenge to Murray’s usually stubborn defense.

McConkey sizzles in win at Murray

By Jimmy Espy, General Manager

Murray County made a better game of it than a lot of people expected on Friday, but the North Murray Mountaineers still pounded out a 42-16 win on their opponent’s home field.

North Murray quarterback Ladd McConkey was dynamic. The senior threw two touchdown passes, returned a kick 98 yards for a TD and was stopped five yards short of a touchdown on an interception return.

McConkey also ran for 59 yards, delivered several big hits in the secondary and sold hot dogs at halftime.

(Just joking about the hot dogs.)

“We have so much confidence in Ladd,” said Coach Preston Poag. “He’s a great athlete, makes good decisions and he makes big plays.”

Big plays were the key to the win for the Mountaineers (5-1, 4-0 in Region 6AAA) as Murray County battled them for four intense, hard-hitting quarters.

“It was a rivalry game,” Poag said. “Both teams were hitting. Both teams were playing hard.”

Murray Coach Chad Brewer agreed.

“I think the crowd had  a lot to do with it,” Brewer said. “It seemed like everybody in Murray County was there and that got the players excited.”

“We feel like we went toe-to-toe with them, certainly that we played with a lot more effort than we did against Sonoraville (the previous week.)”

The Indians gave the Mountaineers a different look on offense. They used two quarterbacks, normal starter Kaleb Jones and Cade Petty.

“The plan all along has been to use both of them at quarterback but we just now got around to using Cade back there,” Brewer said. “This is our first year running the triple option. The players and the coaches are still  learning it. I think both quarterbacks played pretty well on Friday.”

The scoring

The Indians surprised their visitors with a 25-yard field goal by Elber Romero to take the lead at 3-0 late in the first quarter. The kick capped a nine-play drive aided by two defensive penalties.

Penalties were a problem all night for the Mountaineers.

“We had way too many penalties,” Poag said.  “We kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We can’t do this against the teams we have left to play and expect to win.”

Gauge Stanley had a couple of tough runs for 12 yards on the drive before Romero nailed the kick.

Murray County’s boisterous fans had barely settled into their seats however when North Murray struck back.

McConkey took the ensuing kickoff at the 2, picked up his blocking near the 35, found a seam in the kick coverage and exploded to his left for the touchdown.

The PAT kick was good for a 7-3 advantage.

North Murray expanded its lead to 14-3 on its next possession and did it in electrifying fashion.

On second and eight at the NM 22, Noah Lunsford took a handoff, burst through several would-be tackles and stormed 78-yards for the score.

North Murray added a third long-distance scoring play just before the half, pushing its lead to 21-3. Senior wide receiver Landon Burrell got behind double coverage and McConkey found him with a 63-yard scoring strike.

The Mountaineers looked like they were putting the Indians away on their first drive of the third quarter. D’ante Tidwell broke off a 22-yard run and McConkey connected on three passes, including a 20-yarder to a leaping Hayden Hulett in the end zone.

Down 28-3 after giving up four unanswered touchdowns, the Indians could’ve called it a night. Instead they answered the Hulett touchdown with one of their own.

A personal foul on North Murray helped, but even bigger was a bulldozing 14-yard run by Carson Voiles which ignited his teammates and reenergized the big home crowd.

On the next play, Cade Petty zipped a 26-yard scoring strike to Jason Rice.

A possession later, Murray shocked the Mountaineers with a trick play. Quarterback Kaleb Jones fired a pass behind the line to Petty, who pulled up and threw deep to Davis Redwine for a 45-yard touchdown,

The Indians went for two, but the PAT pass was picked off by McConkey, keeping the NM lead at 28-16.

Murray followed with an onside kickoff, but North Murray got the ball at their 34.

A costly personal foul on Murray helped untrack the Mountaineer attack. Gunnar Thomason had a key first down catch and McConkey’s 20-yard run took the ball deep into Murray territory. That’s when Lunsford did what he does best — find the end zone. He scored from seven yards out.

North Murray added a sixth touchdown and once again McConkey played a central role. He picked off a pass and returned it to the Murray 5. Lunsford did the honors from there and  Owen Hannah added his sixth PAT kick.

It was Hannah’s 25th PAT kick without a miss this season.

“North Murray is a very good football team, the best in our region I think,” said Brewer.

“I feel like we matched them in intensity but they just have so many weapons.”

“Ladd is the best athlete in our region,” Brewer added. ‘He’s a great young man and I hope he stays healthy and has a great year.”

Brewer praised his offensive line for having its best effort and also singled out sophomore safety Taylor Carrell who stepped into the starting lineup in place of injured Tyler Hayes.

Notes

There were big, enthusiastic crowds on both sides of the stadium, with many wearing  pink attire in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month … McConkey finished with 136 yards passing and 59 rushing … Tidwell (73) and Lunsford (99) combined for 172 yards on the ground … Burrell had five catches for 107 yards … North Murray was penalized a dozen times … The Indians ran more plays than the Mountaineers … Murray County picked up 16 first downs, including three that were the result of personal fouls on NM … Petty rushed for 57 yards and was 3 for 3 passing for 82 yards and two touchdowns … Taylor Carrell led the team with 11 tackles … Gauge Stanley had seven … Jason Rice had three catches for 48 yards.   

Next up

The Indians (3-3 and 1-3 in 6 AAA) travel to Ringgold on Friday to play the Tigers (0-6, 0-4).

North Murray, winners of five straight games, will host Coahulla Creek at home. The Colts are 1-5 overall, 1-3 in the region.

Both games start at 7:30 p.m.