By Dave Gordon
FORT OGLETHORPE —
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School running back Jacob Gilbert did all he could to carry his squad on senior night Friday at Tommy Cash Stadium.
But North Murray was more than happy to spoil the Hollywood ending, because running back Drake McCowan — a sophomore — matched the senior Gilbert all night long.
The visiting Mountaineers made nine trips to the end zone, sprinting past the Warriors in a 63-43 Region 5-3A shootout Friday night.
North Murray (2-6, 1-4) kept its slim playoff hopes alive with the victory. The Mountaineers still need to win out and have some help from opponents to slip in as the region’s No. 4 seed in the state playoffs.
Gilbert scored five touchdowns for the Warriors, including an impressive 92-yard kickoff return for a score just before the half that cut the Mountaineer lead to seven, 28-21, with 38 seconds left in the first half. But McCowan was there to match him all night, carrying the ball 19 times for 168 yards. McCowan carried the ball five times on the Mountaineers’ first possession of the second half, as North Murray took a 35-21 lead with 8:03 left in the third quarter.
The home team wouldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
The Mountaineers had only run eight plays from scrimmage through a quarter and a half, but came away with 14 points. Coach David Gann was pleased with not only his team’s efficiency but its ability to put up quick points.
“Usually that doesn’t happen,” Gann said. “We’d get the ball and we’d score in one or two plays. They were having some long continuous drives, and we were having a hard time stopping them.”
It was a game of “top this” in the first half, with each team swapping touchdowns through the first 24 minutes. After Mountaineers linebacker Juan Salasies picked off a Sky Rogers pass and took it back 65 yards to the Warriors 9, McCowan drove in his first score of the game. The extra point made it 7-0 at the 9:09 mark.
The Warriors (3-5, 2-3) countered with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by Gilbert’s first score — a two-yard run off a pitch from Rogers.
Junior quarterback Hinton McConkey finished the game with 156 yards on 5 of 6 passing with three touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Payton Swilling hauled in a 55-yard scoring strike, while sophomore Jordan Adams finished with two touchdowns and 79 yards receiving. Senior fullback John Chastain added a 23-yard scoring run up the middle in the first quarter. LFO’s Rogers finished 22 of 29 for 272 yards and one touchdown.
“We couldn’t get the defensive stops we needed to overcome the deficit in the first half,” Warriors coach Todd Windham said. “They had short fields twice, and they had a big return. They capitalized on our mistakes and then gave us the business in the second half.”