MURPHY – David Gentry has done all the computations in his head.
Someone doesn’t get to become Western North Carolina’s all-time winningest football coach without an attention to detail.
Gentry (374 career victories) and the Bulldogs (8-1, 4-0) are home for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game against Swain County (4-5, 4-0). The winner should be the next Smoky Mountain Conference champion.
Murphy and Swain County had traditionally played on the final Friday of the regular season until SMC coaches voted for a rotating schedule in 2014. Combined, the two rivals have won 38 conference championships – 21 for the Bulldogs and 17 for the Maroon Devils. Swain County leads the all-time series, 37-33.
“It’s awfully good to be at home for a game like this,” Gentry said.
“When you look over the course of this rivalry, it’s harder to win if you aren’t the home team. When it comes down to a conference championship between us and Swain County, I don’t know that you can get better than that. You need to have a big ballgame every year. Everyone here knows what it means when we play Swain County and I’m sure they feel the same way, too. A lot of people are coming in from far away for this game.”
Year after year, the SMC football championship was come down to the Murphy-Swain County game more than anyone can count. Friday is one more for the archives.
The Bulldogs have protected their status as the SMC preseason favorite so far.
However, they are home against a Maroon Devils team that has found conference play to be the solution for all that ails it – Swain County began the season 0-4. Last Friday’s 20-point home win over Rosman was another notch on the streak. Maroon Devils junior quarterback Brodie Bowman (1,150 passing yards, 334 rushing yards and 13 combined touchdowns) went over 1,000 yards with his second-highest single-game total (211) of the season. Bowman’s favorite receivers have been Brier Younce (29 receptions for 480 yards and five touchdowns) and Seth Parker (23 receptions for 482 yards and four touchdowns). They are juniors, too, as is leading rusher Keshaun Beaner (368 yards, 11 touchdowns). Chris Miller (360 yards, four touchdowns) is a senior. Wren Gunter (7.6 tackles per game) has stepped up to lead the defense along with fellow junior Will Paul (4.6).
“After starting 0-5, we could have lost focus and said we’re done,” Maroon Devils coach Neil Blankenship said.
“Instead, everyone here has really stuck together. They’ve continued to be coached and are playing better all the time.”
There’s no jinxing Murphy junior Joey Curry (1,085 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions). He has still yet to throw a ball into enemy hands. Instead, those passes have found the safety of Colton Posey (33 receptions for 525 yards and six touchdowns) and Travis Seabolt (10 receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns). Kadrian McRae (470 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Slade McTaggart (409 yards, six touchdowns) are first and second in rushing. The Bulldogs are ninth in this week’s Associated Press 1-A rankings with a defense that depends on Adam Powell (7.4 tackles a game), Slade McTaggart (6.4), Cody Cantrell (5.9), Chase Roberts (5.4) and Cory Farmer (5.3).
“What I have told our kids is that you are playing in one of the most special rivalries in not only Western North Carolina, but our state,” Blankenship said.
“(Friday’s game) won’t decide the Smoky Mountian Conference championship neccesarily. We’ve got one more week after this. But we’ve got to play this one as hard as we can and try and enjoy it.”
SWAIN COUNTY AT MURPHY
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Pick: Murphy by 7.
Following is a look at the last five football games between Murphy and Swain County. The Maroon Devils lead the all-time series, 37-33.
2015: Swain County 20, Murphy 13.
2014: Murphy 38, Swain County 14.
2013: Swain County 36, Murphy 27.
2012: Swain County 21, Murphy 7.
2011: Swain County 28, Murphy 0.
COMING FRIDAY: Score updates from all Western North Carolina football games will be available at CITIZEN-TIMES.com. Twitter readers are encouraged to tag the High School Huddle at acthshuddle with their scores.