When Southeast Whitfield kicked off to North Murray to start the high school football season for both teams on Friday night at Raider Stadium, Mountaineers returner Jordan Adams found a lane straight up the field and went 96 yards for a touchdown.
The more cynical Southeast fans might have sighed and said, “Here we go again.” Instead, they learned that this year might be a little different from in years past.
Southeast scored 35 straight points — with touchdowns from five different players — after giving up that opening score for a 35-12 victory, starting a season with a win for just the fourth time in the past 20 seasons. The prolific scoring effort earned plenty of booms from the cannon at the north end of the field — which is lit every time the Raiders score — and a water cooler shower for second-year Southeast coach Sean Gray.
“To give up that opening kickoff return and respond the way they did with 35 points, that just shows you what kind of team this year’s team is,” Gray said. “I am tickled for the way we represented ourselves to the community, and it was great to have a big crowd, but now we have to keep them coming back next week against Gordon Central. We have to keep it going.”
While Southeast’s points were impressive, the more impressive number was the total yardage allowed by the Southeast defense. North Murray managed just 170 yards on offense, and 80 of those came on the Mountaineers’ final drive against the Raiders’ second-team defense for a meaningless score in the final minutes of the game.
“Defensively, we were dominant tonight,” Gray said. “We have been telling them they have a chance to be an outstanding unit.”
The Raiders held the Mountaineers to less than 100 yards of rushing offense, and junior quarterback Hinton McConkey struggled in his first season running the North Murray offense, which averaged 34 points per game a year ago. He was 9 of 21 passing for 75 yards, and he managed 52 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Southeast countered with 323 yards of total offense, including 250 on the ground.
“Southeast has got a great football team,” said North Murray coach David Gann, who’s also in his second season in charge. “There were times tonight where they just whipped us on both sides of the ball, and then we also hurt ourselves.
“You could see the difference in the experience that they had tonight and the inexperience that we have,” he said.
North Murray graduated 23 seniors from last year’s 5-5 team.
After Adams’ roaring start to the game and a failed two-point attempt, the Raiders wasted little time with a 69-yard return by Colter Faith to the Mountaineers’ 30. Three runs by senior tailback Blake Foster pushed the ball to the 9, and quarterback Rhett Harper found Cole Gillean in the back of the end zone on a roll-out pass.
Jonathon Sanchez tacked on the first of his five extra points. The Raiders — who wouldn’t trail again — led 21-6 at the end of the first half.
Foster (5-yard run), Will Swantic (16-yard run), Luis Fraire (3-yard fumble return) and Devin Fields (12-yard run) also scored for the Raiders. John Chastain scored on a 3-yard run for the Mountaineers’ other touchdown.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, and we had some problems in some of our base offense, but I couldn’t be prouder of the way these boys responded tonight,” Gray said. “This is a big win for them and for this program. But it is still just the first game of the year.”