By Dave Gordon
As the first wave of autumn leaves begin to fall in early November, so do the playoff chances of the majority of the state’s high school football teams.
And like those falling leaves, even with only one win to their credit — and the regular season a week shy of its end — the Murray County Indians have gained experience that has changed them from midsummer green to a seasoned, weathered orange.
Conversely, Pepperell’s hopes are very much alive and vibrant on the postseason football tree.
The Dragons blew through Murray Field like a cold gust of wind Friday in a 49-7 rout of the Indians in Murray County’s home finale.
With the win, the Dragons continue to hold fourth place in Region 7-2A. If they finish the regular season that way, they’ll also earn the region’s final berth in the state playoffs by virtue of head-to-head victories over Coosa and Chattooga.
Dragons running back Devyn Collins gained 177 yards on 14 carries — with touchdown runs of 2, 4 and 29 yards — while teammate Qaiderus Morgan added a 17-yard score in the second quarter and a 35-yard touchdown run in the third quarter as he gained 85 yards on just five carries.
For Pepperell (3-6, 3-3), the defense was outstanding as it forced the Indians (1-8, 0-6) into stalled drives and punts for most of the night.
Murray County’s lone touchdown came on a 1-yard dive from Austin Gossett with 8:52 left in the fourth quarter. The play came after Gossett caught a 26-yard pass from quarterback Justin Smith to set up the touchdown.
It’s big plays like Gossett’s that suggest the Indians have gained something from the season, even if they don’t have multiple wins to show for it.
“We’re getting bigger, faster and stronger,” first-year Murray County coach Chad Brewer said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s the first step. We are definitely a more physical football team. We’re not giving up and we’re fighting until the very end, so I’m very, very proud of them for that.”
Dragons coach Jeff Shiflett has seen his share of playoff games, leading his team to seven or more wins in six of his seven seasons at the helm. He wants another trip to state.
“There’s a lot still to happen,” Shiflett said. “Last week we got ourselves back in it. A big one tonight and an even bigger one next week. It’s been tough on us, but we battled back and got ourselves back into a situation to get a shot at it.”