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Murphy, Swain have SMC flying high again

9:04 PM, Nov. 24, 2012 EST

Murphy's Kenton Braswell (1) run against Swain County during an Oct. 26 home game. / John Coutlakis/jcoutlakis@citizen-times.com


Murphy football coach David Gentry is seriously considering a flight to Monday's NCHSAA championship press conference in Raleigh.

Gentry said he's done it in the past, both commercially and private.

One thing is for sure. Gentry's Bulldogs (13-2) and the rest of the Smoky Mountain Conference are back in rarefied air.

Current SMC schools have combined to win 23 state titles in football and Murphy (1-A) and Swain County (1-AA) can add to that total in back-to-back games Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

A year ago, Murphy and Swain County awakened some doldrums by giving Western North Carolina its first multi-state championship season in football since 1982.

The NCHSAA subdivided the 1-A state playoffs for the first time in 2001.

"It's pretty neat stuff," Gentry said.

"Of course, you know what would be really neat? If we both won it again."

Kenton Braswell rushed for a team-high 217 yards in Friday's 1-A Western Regional championship game and the junior's two touchdowns were the last scored by Murphy in a 27-24 win at Albemarle.

Michael Curry and James Posey added short touchdown runs.

This year's Bulldogs team is believed to be the first in school history to capture three consecutive regional football titles. And they did it after graduating 2011 Citizen-Times All-WNC Player of the Year Seth Curtis at quarterback.

Friday was the 333rd career win by Gentry, who has left the former WNC career record (301) in the dust.

"It's not easy to go down to Albemarle and win, but the kids played real hard and we knew that's what it would take," Gentry said.

"They're a good team. Our kids just gutted it out and played real physical. It was a real team effort."

The Bulldogs will be going for their seventh state football championship in school history (and sixth under Gentry) next week when they take on Plymouth (14-1) at 11 a.m.

Murphy's last loss came to Swain County (21-7 on Oct. 26).

The undefeated Maroon Devils (15-0) are in line for their ninth state title in Saturday's 1-AA game against Southwest Onslow (13-1) at 3 p.m.

Blake Wright ran for a game-high 121 yards and Swain County shrugged off a 21-0 deficit to beat visiting Monroe, 28-21, in Friday's 1-AA Western Regional championship game.

Garrett Lane added 97 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Raymius Smith threw his 38th and 39th touchdown passes of the season to Greg Tisho (49 yards) and Matthew Maennle (10).

In the process, Maennle tied a WNC record for single-season touchdown receptions (22) and a school record for single-season receptions (62). The former All-WNC pick's interception return for a touchdown late in the first half proved to be the game winner.

Swain County's defense mounted one last stand in the final two minutes when Payton Parker recovered a Monroe fumble on the Maroon Devils' 9-yard line.

Parker made a team-high 11 tackles.

"(Having two SMC teams still playing) is just awesome," Swain County coach Neil Blankenship said.

Does that mean the SMC is back to being a preeminent force in North Carolina high school football?

"Let's wait until next week," Blankenship countered.

"Let's win those two and then we'll talk."

Maennle is looking forward to a large local contingent next week inside the ACC stadium used by N.C. State.

"Let's have a big crowd for the Smoky Mountain Conference," Maennle said.

"Let's pack the place."




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