Murphy edges Plymouth, 15-14, for 1-A title

Published 2:27 pm Saturday, December 17, 2016

CHAPEL HILL — Plymouth cashed in on two turnovers, but it wasn’t enough. Joey Curry’s 2-point conversion after Kadrian McRae’s early third-quarter touchdown proved to be the difference.

The Vikings recovered from an 0-3 start and all the talent it lost off of last year’s championship team to return to the title game. Their defense excelled against a high-powered Murphy offense, but they couldn’t make the one more stop they needed to repeat as 1-A champions.

“We want to win, but we battled hard,” Plymouth coach Robert Cody said. “We never stopped battling the whole time. … It bothers me (to see the players so emotional). You want to see them happy.”

Plymouth appeared to be in good shape in the waning moments of the first half. Tied seven apiece, Diedre Whitehead blew through the offensive line to sack Curry. The Bulldog signal caller, now backed up six more yards, tried to take to make a play through the air late in the quarter.

Instead, his pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and Jeromy Goddard came up with it. It seemed inconsequential as the Vikings had a long field and only 1:11 left before halftime.

However, Aryn Gibson was able to connect with Ta’Quaun White on a 56-yard touchdown. The explosive play gave the Vikings a 14-7 advantage going into halftime.

“I thought it was great to score an get ahead,” Cody said. “I thought we’d run the ball a little bit better in the second half. I thought we got some things corrected, especially our rocket sweep.”

The high was short lived, though. Murphy quickly answered with a big play of its own. McRae, who had a game-best 179 yards on the ground, took the handoff from Curry and ripped off a 48-yard run to the end zone.

Plymouth’s defense got flagged for encroachment on the point-after try, setting up Curry to punch in the decisive conversion.

The Vikings drew first blood just over two minutes into the second quarter. They had been forced to punt the ball away to start the period, but Aveon Braxton came up with a fumble recovery two plays later. It set them up in the red zone. Elijah Carmack took a handoff to the left and cut inside for a 5-yard touchdown.

Plymouth’s stellar defense forced a punt on Murphy’s ensuing drive, but the Viking offense went three-and-out. The Bulldogs marched down the field, eventually drawing even on a 10-yard fullback sweep by Wayne Johnson.

Murphy controlled the tempo of the game. It held the ball for nearly 30 of the 48 minutes of action and ran 32 plays. Curry cut his index finger on his throwing hand early on, so the Bulldogs weren’t able to air it out, but the 60 rushes let them command the clock.

Carmack led the Vikings with 11 carries for just 34 yards and a touchdown. Willie McNair had 16 tackles (nine solo), including a sack and three tackles for loss, to spearhead the exceptional Plymouth defensive effort.