Murphy takes a long road trip for the second round of the state play-offs to face Mountain Heritage
By Brandon Stephens
(Burnsville) – – The Cougars and Feline Force take on the Murphy Bulldogs (7 & 4) on Friday night. In the late 1970s, Robert Conrad challenged people to drop an alkaline battery from his shoulder which is filled with a cougar-like ball of energy that jumps through a number 9. A physical game to knock down the shoulder cougars of the high country of western North Carolina will be needed by Murphy. Two teams were successful, including Mitchell County High and Pisgah and with very good margins. The other eight teams suffered the shock of Mountain Heritage, which is at 8 and 2 on the season. Smoky Mountain Conference neighbor Swain County was the closest to knocking down the Cougars in a 16-10 game at Bryson City. It’s been so long since these two teams faced off, Robert Conrad’s commercial for Eveready batteries was probably still on the air. In the years that followed, both teams enjoyed great success and some trips to the state championship game.
Mountain heritage cougars
During this fall season, Mountain Heritage has likely been tested primarily by a non-conference opponent like Pisgah, Swain, Erwin and conference opponent Avery County. The once powerful Western Highlands Conference has not been as difficult as it once was. This does not mean that Mountain Heritage is weak. The Cougars averaged 32 points per game and limited opponents to about 15 points per game.
How will Mountain Heritage work? The statistics and the film illustrate a Cougar team propelled by their descent from counters, traps and dives. Like so many teams Murphy has faced, quarterback Gabe Silvers does a lot of quarterback-designed runs, from scoring to power plays, especially when opponents don’t fill the box. Silvers has over 12 hundred rushing yards. Mountain Heritage has strong senior backstroke runners Jakob McCool and Logan Huskins. They have 567 and 367 rushing yards respectively. Granted, the numbers seem a bit low, but they tend to break for big rushed games. This team has good fundamentals but was not considered the fastest team in the region. Another potential weakness could be that the Cougars still go for a 2-point conversion and don’t have a field goalie.
The Mountain Heritage defense has been stingy in letting their opponents score. Similar training and technique to the Cougars was the defense of Rabun County. We’ll probably see a 3-3 stack (33 defenses) and cover three in the secondary most, if not all of the time. The strongest defensive players are senior nose guard Bryson Hollman and Logan Huskins, who will move to center linebacker after his duties as running back.
Drop the battery from the shoulder
Mountain Heritage is not the fastest team, but they are tall and physical which can be problematic. Otherwise, Murphy will have to use his speed and muscles to stop and pass the Cougars. It won’t be child’s play. But, if you win this game, you definitely have bragging rights. Murphy’s head coach Joseph Watson said: “They (Mountain Heritage) are going to be a tough team to compete with on Friday, but we are up to the challenge.” Coach Watson says the Bulldogs will need to keep an eye on Mountain Heritage quarterback Gabe Silvers. “He (quarterback Gabe Silvers) is the bulk of their offense. He carried the ball 2 on 1 to anyone else on his team. They do a really good job creating offsets and overloading formations to get blocks for him, ”added Watson.
Are the Bulldogs ready for this second round game? Bulldog quarterback Kellen Rumfelt believes the team is ready. Last week’s decisive victory over Alleghany was the drug prescribed by the doctor. “We have had a great week of training. We really needed this win and we had to win like we did. What they (Mountain Heritage) are mainly trying to do is beat you up. Line up against yourself and prove that they are bigger and a better football team, ”Rumfelt said after practice this week. Rumfelt added that the team will obviously be watching Gabe Silvers, as he has nearly 130 races this season. Senior management at the Murphy Bulldogs will need to keep the team motivated during a long bus ride to Burnsville. “We are ready, all we have to do is win,” added Rumfelt.
Some more thoughts on this game
Murphy’s defense will need to take a stand and play some good mission football. Watching the movie of last week’s game with the Albemarle Bulldogs against Mountain Heritage, the frontline made too many mistakes and allowed their big men to isolate themselves and get knocked out. They weren’t the best Albemarle team we’ve seen on “The Strip” in a while. Murphy Bulldogs cannot fall into the same pit as Albemarle. We expect Kyle Willard to be back and click on the eight cylinders, with Rylan Smith and possibly Chandler Wood adding some speed. It will be a ground match. All season, the Cougars have scored 5 touchdowns on passes and about 40 on rushed runs. Another good night of Murphy’s balanced attack that we saw on Friday night couldn’t hurt. We haven’t seen Mountain Heritage having to defend many passes which can be an opportunity for Murphy if we allow a few more passes from Rumfelt. So the challenge is up, come on Murphy, drop them, I challenge you!