Patience will be key for Plymouth

Published 4:47 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

Plymouth running back Carl McCray (9) and the Vikings will battle Murphy today in the NCHSAA 1-A state championship game at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

PLYMOUTH — With three running backs who have gained over 1,000 yards on their roster, the Vikings have rushed their way into today’s NCHSAA 1-A state title game against Murphy. However, whether or not they win it might just depend on how patient they are.
Plymouth, the Four Rivers Conference champions, will kickoff at 11 a.m. inside N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium against defending state champions Murphy who is making its third consecutive trip to the big game.
Behind its explosive wing-T offense Plymouth (15-1) has galloped past opponents this season outscoring teams 728-128 on the year thanks to its dynamic trio of running backs, Quadre Pettiford (1,201, 21 TDs), Carl McCray (1,103, 17 TDs) and Kendrick Pitt (1,005, 21 TDs).
The Three Amigos average well over a first down per carry as McCray gains 14.5 yards per attempt, Pitt tallies 13.4 and Pettiford rushes for 12.9 a handoff.
Murphy (13-2) finished in second place in a tough Smoky Mountain Conference and returns a majority of its players from last year’s team. Under longtime coach Drew Gentry, the Bulldogs run a wing-T as well and there’s no doubt they are well versed in stopping it.
With that in mind, Plymouth coach Robert Cody is not banking on his trio of backs to run wild today like they have in the past.
“We’re going to have to be patient running the ball,” Cody said. “A lot of times this year they would take a handoff and run for a touchdown. They have to understand that it’s not going to be like that this week. (Murphy) is going to have their first line, second line and third line of defenders where they need to be.
“You have to be ready to get up and go to the next play. We have to be able to run for first downs rather than touchdowns.”
Gentry, who like Cody, has coached at his school for over 25 years, has won six state titles and felt big plays will be a big factor in today’s game.
“I don’t think you can stop them, but we can’t give them the big play,” Gentry said of the Vikings. “They are very capable, but as long as our defense can just keep making them play another down maybe we can get a turnover or maybe we can stop them. But we can’t give up big plays on defense.”
Another key for Plymouth will be the play of QB Sharmontez Ferebee, who has completed over 50 percent of his passes for 1,087 yards and 13 TDs.
“We will need him to play like he practices,” Cody said. “He has all the athletic ability. He can hum that rock.”
Murphy, who has racked up 685 points on the year, has a big time backfield as well. The Bulldogs return all three of their starting RBs from a year ago and are led by Gaige Cox (1,263, 16 TDs), James Posey (1,014, 20 TDs) and Kenton Braswell (998), who rushed for 217 yards in Murphy’s 27-24 win over Albemarle in the West Regional round of the playoffs.
Thanks to players like nose guard William Hollingsworth, middle linebacker Markey Brooks and CB Pitt, the Vikings have been strong on the defensive side of the ball and will need to continue that trend today.
“We’ve got to stop their trap and their buck sweep. That’s No. 1 thing on defense,” Cody said. “We have to recognize their alignment, then run up and tackle.”
While Murphy has been accustomed to state title runs, Plymouth is no stranger to the big stage either. The Vikings won their first state championship in 2007 when they topped North Duplin 20-13.
In that game, Plymouth jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and then clung on to win state glory.
Today, the Vikings are hoping for a repeat performance.
“I think it’s real important that we come out and play real well early,” Cody said. “It gives you confidence. Going into the game we’re definitely underdogs so anything we can do to get us feeling good about ourselves will really help.”