When North Murray High School quarterback Hinton McConkey threw Friday night, the Mountaineers’ offense flew.
The Mountaineers’ Class 3A state playoff hopes are still in the air, too.
McConkey threw touchdown passes of 53, 47 and 31 yards and compiled 181 yards passing in North Murray’s 56-14 victory at Mountaineer Stadium against Region 5-3A opponent Coahulla Creek. With the win — and Sonoraville and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe’s losses to Cartersville and Ringgold, respectively — the Mountaineers stay afloat in the race for the state playoffs.
North Murray must beat Gordon Central next week and hope LFO beats Sonoraville to force a three-team tie.
“If LFO beats Sonoraville, we have a chance,” North Murray sophomore wide receiver Jordan Adams said.
Adams was an early beneficiary of North Murray’s passing game. On the team’s first offensive play, he caught a 33-yard play-action pass from McConkey, setting up Drake McCowan’s 8-yard touchdown run a play later for a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. McConkey also found Adams on a back-shoulder, 31-yard touchdown reception with 1:29 before halftime, when the Mountaineers (3-6, 2-4) held a 28-7 lead over the Colts (2-7, 1-5).
McConkey only completed 7 of 14 passes but had four completions of at least 31 yards.
“They had two safeties up close to the line of scrimmage,” North Murray coach David Gann said, “and when teams do that, you have to throw the ball deep.”
A 53-yard bootleg pass to John Chastain put North Murray ahead 14-7 with 2:52 left in the opening quarter. McConkey also hurt Coahulla Creek’s defense with his legs, scrambling for a 42-yard touchdown run and a 21-7 lead with 9:37 remaining in the second quarter. With 8:20 remaining in the third quarter, McConkey connected with Payton Swilling for a 47-yard touchdown and a 35-7 lead.
Coahulla Creek — now eliminated from the postseason race — only had one scoring drive. Already trailing 7-0, quarterback Blaine Williams completed four of five passes for 43 yards on a 12-play, 80-yard drive. Cameron Burton’s 3-yard score tied the game with 4:44 remaining in the opening quarter.
The next two Colts possessions ended on fumbled snaps after attaining multiple first downs, and kicker Pedro Garcia missed a 52-yard field goal attempt to end the first half.
“Early on, turning the ball over on two nice drives — that kills you when you have a chance to stay in the game,” Coahulla Creek coach Jared Hamlin said.
Williams finished 13-for-31 passing for 106 yards and one interception, which linebacker Jonathon Cain returned 56 yards for a 49-14 lead with 10:53 remaining in the game. Burton rushed 14 times for 84 yards and Coahulla Creek’s offense gained 262 yards against a North Murray defense that allowed a combined 92 points the previous two weeks.
“This was the first time we’ve put four quarters together on (the defensive) side of the ball,” Gann said.
McCowan, who finished with 128 of North Murray’s 294 rushing yards, put the Mountaineers ahead 42-14 with a 58-yard score with 2:46 left in the third quarter. Brady Harper’s 11-yard run with 6:25 remaining in the game finished the scoring.
North Murray’s only mistake on offense came one play after its defense stopped Coahulla Creek on fourth-and-goal midway through the third quarter. Burton recovered a fumbled snap in the end zone, making the score 35-14 with 5:28 left in the quarter.