Hillsboro’s Daylon Murphy didn’t have the most eventful junior season.
Murphy, the backup quarterback for 2014 Class 5A runner-up Burros, watched patiently from the sidelines as Michael Hughes — now a freshman at Tennessee State — guided the Burros to an unbeaten regular season and the school’s first state championship appearance since 2008.
“Last year all I was doing was preparing,” said Murphy, who only took a handful of snaps during the Burros’ 14-1 campaign — even fewer meaningful ones. “I just tried to stay mentally focused and waited for my moment.”
That moment has finally arrived for the rising senior signal caller.
Murphy is penciled in as Hillsboro’s starter for 2015, and judging by the 6-foot, 190-pounder’s performance at this week’s National Select 7-on-7 Mid-South Regional, he’s wasted little time taking the reins of the offense.
“Those are some big shoes to fill in Mike (Hughes), but the team is confident in Daylon and what he can do,” Jay King, the team’s top returning receiver and Murphy’s cousin, said. “We live like right across the street from each other, so we do a lot of throwing and catching. We have a lot of chemistry on the field, and it’s already showing at 7-on-7s.”
Murphy carved up opposing defenses throughout the two-day tournament, guiding his team to a perfect 11-0 record to secure a spot in the upcoming National Select 7-on-7 Championship in Hoover, Ala., July 16-18.
“I think he got better every game,” Hillsboro coach Craig Clayton said. “Anytime you’re inexperienced, the game speeds up for you. The more experienced you get, the more it slows down, and I think it slowed down for him a lot today.”
“This was his first 7-on-7, and he just did a really good job,” Burros defensive coordinator Dustin Lopez said. “The coach for Civic Memorial (Illinois) — the team we beat in the championship game — told our head coach that he was the best quarterback at the tournament.”
High praise, considering he’s only been playing the position for about a year.
Murphy, also a standout basketball player for the reigning District 12-AAA champion Burros, was moved to quarterback prior to last season after members of Hillsboro’s coaching staff spotted him tossing a Frisbee.
“We saw him playing ultimate Frisbee, and we went to coach Clayton and said, ‘This kid’s got a pretty good arm,’ ” Lopez said. “We didn’t have a backup quarterback last year, and we just replaced the Frisbee with a football.”
Murphy’s stellar 7-on-7 showing might not be a clear indication of how he’ll perform this fall on Friday nights, as Clayton admitted the Burros will be more run-oriented this fall. He probably won’t be slinging the ball around as much as Hughes did a season ago — the TSU signee threw for 2,285 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2014 — but the coaches are confident he’ll be able to answer when called upon.
“We’re not going to ask him to win games for us this year; we just don’t want him to lose any for us,” Clayton said. “The big thing about Daylon is that his leadership skills have really improved a lot, beginning in the spring and into the summer.”
Lopez added, “Coach Clayton and (offensive coordinator Patrick) Murphy sat him down in the spring and kind of told him, ‘This is going to go how you go, and if you play well, we’re going to have a heck of a year.’ I think he heard those expectations and kind of took it personal.
“He knows he can do this, and the success he’s having right now is only helping.”
National Select 7-on-7 Mid-South Regional scores
1 Hillsboro 11-0-0
2 Civic Memorial (Ill.) 7-2-1
3 Hazel Green (Ala.) 9-2-0
4 Mt. Juliet 7-6-0
Whitehaven A 6-4-1
Whitehaven B 6-3-1
Montgomery Central 3-7-0
Creek Wood 2-8-0
*Brooks (Ala.) 0-9-0
* Did not show up to tournament