By Dave Gordon
Though the early pace of Friday night’s visit to North Murray High School by Johnson-Gainesville was lacking, the play of North Murray junior quarterback Hinton McConkey certainly wasn’t.
McConkey passed for two touchdowns and ran for one more, while sophomore running back Drake McCowan ran for two scores, leading the Mountaineers to a 34-7 win.
Junior wideout Payton Swilling was on the receiving end of both of McConkey’s touchdown passes, finishing with four catches for 53 yards.
North Murray coach David Gann was pleased not only with his quarterback’s aggressive style, but also his reactions.
“He threw the ball well, he ran the ball well, but the thing he did that I’m most proud of was that he just made good decisions,” Gann said. “There were times when people were covered and instead of trying to force things he just tucked it and ran it. Which, those are the signs of a quarterback really starting to learn and understand.”
The 6-foot-2-inch McConkey did most of his damage in the first two quarters, completing 9 of 14 passes for 204 yards. McCowan finished the game with 77 yards on 13 carries.
After penalties marred most of the first quarter, including eight combined by both teams, the Mountaineers (1-2) started off the scoring, capping an 11-play drive with McCowan darting in from three yards out.
The Mountaineers forced a three-and-out on the Knights’ next possession, and struck quickly with senior tight end Justin Mathis taking a screen pass 54 yards to the Johnson 24. Three plays later, McConkey rolled out of the pocket and connected with Swilling in the end zone, making it 14-0.
North Murray got the ball back with 1:32 left to play in the half, and another McConkey screen play — this time to sophomore Leonard Lechuga — went for 33 yards. A Knights’ penalty set up the Mountaineers at the 18, and McConkey once again found an open Swilling in the back of the endzone for a 15-yard scoring pass and a 21-0 lead.
McCowan and McConkey would finish the scoring in the second half with runs of 16 and 15 yards, respectively. Johnson’s only score of the game came off a 44-yard screen pass late in the fourth quarter from junior quarterback Chase Sims to Luis Hernandez.
Knights coach Jason Roquemore was proud of his team’s effort after the half.
“I thought our kids played hard and you can build on that,” Roquemore said. “Our best football is still ahead of us. We’re young, and we’ve got to go through some growing pains.”