By Jeffery Lee, for the SNAP
Sunday, December 8, 2013 —
The field at Bob Hendrix Stadium was muddy before the two teams ever took the field. Then the rain came, and kept coming.
It wasn’t what Albemarle coach Seth Smith wanted to see.
With a chewed-up field, wet footballs and constant rain, the Bulldogs’ high-powered passing game was limited, and the defense struggled to contain Murphy’s power run game, as Albemarle suffered its third straight loss to Murphy in the Western Regional finals 53-21 Friday night in Murphy.
“The conditions really took us out of our game plan," said Smith.
“There was nothing we could do (through the air). We tried it, did the best we could with it, but there was just nothing we could do.”
Bulldogs quarterback Bryan Blanton, who entered the game with over 2,100 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, finished just 5-of-13 for 71 yards and two interceptions.
Albemarle’s run game struggled early, rushing for just 16 yards on 13 attempts in the first half.
“We lost the game up front," said Smith. “We got beat in the trenches.”
While Albemarle was slow to adjust being forced to run, the conditions played into the hands of run-first Murphy.
Led by junior Gaige Cox, Murphy rushed for 548 yards and eight touchdowns. Cox finished with 290 yards on 26 carries and five scores. Senior Kenton Braswell added 247 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
“They just played a lot better than we did," said Smith. "They didn’t do anything we hadn’t seen. We just didn’t play very well at all.”
After Murphy scored two second-quarter touchdowns to take a 13-0 lead, Albemarle responded with one of its own. Timmie White returned a kickoff 48 yards to the Murphy 38-yard line, which sparked some life into Albemarle’s offense.The Bulldogs put together a six-play drive that was capped by a Blanton 1-yard touchdown run.
The score cut Murphy’s lead to 13-7 with just 40 seconds left before halftime, and gave Albemarle some much-needed momentum.
Murphy (12-3) took that momentum back on the ensuing kickoff and needed just two plays and 23 seconds to get the touchdown back. On its first play, Braswell rushed 51 yards to the Albemarle 10-yard line, and then Cox took it the rest of the way on the next play. Instead of being down six at the half, the Bulldogs were down 19-7.
“I thought that touchdown was a huge momentum swing,” said Smith.
“It took the wind out of our sail.”
Albemarle was never able to recover it. Murphy scored four straight touchdowns to open the second half, including a 1-yard run by Deion Johnson that gave Murphy its biggest lead of the game at 47-7 with 5:13 left in the fourth quarter.
Albemarle’s Germarcus Sellers scored on runs of 70 and 10 yards late in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 47-21, but Cox quickly answered with his own long scoring run, an 89-yarder, that ended the game and the Bulldogs’ season.
Sellers finished with a team-high 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs. White had three receptions for 35 yards.
The loss ended Albemarle’s season with an 11-4 record.
“I couldn’t ask anymore of these kids," said Smith.
“It’s not the way we wanted to end the season by any means, but when you get to the Western Regional finals, you can’t say that it wasn’t a successful season. A lot of teams that weren’t in the finals would have loved to have been here.
“We’ll go back to the drawing board and start again and see if we can get back here next year and finish it.”
A 0 7 0 14 21
M 0 19 14 20 53
M – Kenton Braswell 26 run (Foster Stroup kick), 11:47, 2nd
M – Gaige Cox 6 run (kick failed), 4:20, 2nd
A – Bryan Blanton 1 run (Mason Krol kick), :40, 2nd
M – Cox 10 run (run failed), :17, 2nd
M – Cox 64 run (Stroup kick), 11:00, 3rd
M – Cox 7 run (Stroup kick), 8:24, 3rd
M – Braswell 5 run (Stroup kick), 8:05, 4th
M – Deion Johnson 1 run (Stroup kick), 5:13, 4th
A – Germarcus Sellers 70 run (Krol kick), 3:37, 4th
A – Sellers 70 run (Krol kick), 3:18 4th
M – Cox 89 run (pass failed), 2:51, 4th
1st Downs 6 19
Rushing 34-152 47-548
Passing 71 24
C-A-I 5-13-2 2-6-0
Punts 7-36.0 3-39.7
Penalties 9-55 6-30
Fum.-Lst. 5-1 6-1
3rd Down 3-14 5-9
4th Down 1-2 1-3
TOP 15:11 21:06
Rushing: A – Sellers 6-100, 2 TD; Blanton 7-34, TD; Mack 8-17; McKinney 8-17; Stanback 4-(-2). M – Cox 26-290, 5 TD; Braswell 18-248, 2 TD; Satterfield 1-10; Johnson 2-0, TD.
Passing: A – Blanton 5-13, 71 yds., 2 int. M – Kent 2-6, 24 yds.
Receiving: A – White 3-35; Brafford 1-24; Sellers 1-12. M – Johnson 1-27; Braswell 1-(-3).