By Dave Gordon
North Murray High School’s football team had to contend with two opponents Friday night — one on the field and one off — with a state playoff spot on the line.
The Mountaineers pulled away late in the second quarter and cruised to a 42-14 victory over host Gordon Central in what ended up being North Murray’s final game of the season.
Any playoff hopes for the Mountaineers were dashed with the news of Sonoraville running away with a 60-21 win over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, giving the Phoenix the No. 4 seed for the playoffs from Region 5-3A.
Despite postseason dreams that were out of their control, coach David Gann was pleased with the resiliency his young squad showed late in the year.
“It didn’t work out tonight, but I’m so proud of our team,” Gann said. “We started off as a rebuilding year at the beginning. Throughout the season they gradually got better. We’ve just got to get bigger and stronger. We were about a half game away from it, with (LFO losing). But that’s our goal now is to get in next season.”
The Mountaineers may have missed the playoffs, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of effort against Gordon Central.
Sophomore Drake McCowan drove home that notion with a 235-yard, three touchdown performance, carrying the Mountaineers on his back for most of the evening.
Gann knew his team would have to take advantage of what the defense gave them at first.
“Again, Gordon Central has done what a lot of teams have done, by putting a lot of guys in the box,” Gann said. “We just did what we were allowed to do, and then got them out of the box a little so we could start running the ball.”
McCowan started off the scoring on the Mountaineers’ first possession, a 12-play drive that lasted just under three minutes, culminating with his 11-yard touchdown run.
The Mountaineers came right back after a Gordon Central three-and-out, this time on an 18-yard scoring strike from quarterback Hinton McConkey to Payton Swilling, and a 14-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Warriors got a 68-yard return by Terrance Smith to the 5, and two plays later, Cody Jones scored on a 5-yard touchdown plunge, and also added a two point conversion pass to make it 14-8. Later, Jones would find Smith up the sideline for a 46-yard screen pass for a touchdown, tying the score with 7:39 left in the half.
McCowan and the Mountaineers took the lead back for good as he took a handoff and bounced outside for a 35-yard scoring run to make the score 21-14 with 7:10 left. McCowan added a 9-yard touchdown in the third, and Jordan Adams scored on a 37-yard pass from McConkey. Fullback John Chastain finished the scoring with a 49-yard scamper late in the fourth.