By Charles Curcio, Sports Editor
CNHI News Service
Friday, November 23, 2012 —
Fans of high school football in Stanly and the surrounding counties are likely quite thankful the day after Thanksgiving as the Murphy Bulldogs make the five-hour trek down from the mountains to rematch with the host Albemarle Bulldogs in the 1A Western Regional Finals this Friday night.
Murphy head coach David Gentry brings nearly the same team to Friday’s game that he did from last season’s 42-41 double-overtime game, minus a running back and an offensive lineman.
“We are basically the same football team,” Gentry said.
Running the Murphy offense is sophomore quarterback Michael Curry (47-of-87, 948 passing yds, 6 TD) while the team has two 1,000-yard rushers in sophomore Gaige Cox (1,255 yds, 16 TD) and senior James Posey (1,006 yds., 20 TD). Junior running back Kenton Braswell is in double figures for Murphy with 13 rushing TDs out of the team’s wing-T offense.
Murphy has scored 657 points this season while allowing 261 on defense, averaging to 46.9 points scored per game to allowing 18.6 scored against them. The team suffered two losses this season, a 42-35 loss at home to 3A Franklin and a 21-7 defeat in the deciding game for the Smoky Mountain Confer-ence title to 1AA Swain County.
Gentry said Albemarle is very similar to Swain County, with good speed and “probably a bit more speed” than the Maroon Devils.
Gentry said that the keys to victory for Murphy was that his defense had to control Albemarle quarterback Deon Christian (1,803 passing yards, 24 TD, 647 rushing yds., 8 TD). Offensively, Gentry said that Murphy has to be able to move the football like they did last year.
Albemarle head coach Danny Akins said that he felt the biggest difference between last year’s game and Friday’s game is that the royal blue-clad Bulldogs are muchhealthier this season.
“We are healthy at all our main positions; we were a little beat up last year,” Akins said, noting that the team was without their starting strong-side linebacker and lost running back Daquan Ellis midway through the second quarter of that game.
Akins also said that having played Murphy in 2009 and 2011 helps Albemarle prepare for this year’s regional finals because both teams have run the same offensive and defensive schemes for years and adding “when you watch [the opponent] against you, you can see how they are going to defend you and line up to stop you.”
However, the Albemarle coach also said that it is impossible to compare teams from year to year because each team has “different chemistry and leadership groups.”
Friday’s game is not about revenge for Albemarle, Akins said, adding, “We just want to win and have a chance to play for a state championship.”