The Sonoraville Phoenix could not contain North Murray quarterback Ladd McConkey as the North Murray Mountaineers pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 45-21 at North Murray High School. However, with a Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe loss to Calhoun, the Phoenix grab hold of Region 6-AAA’s No. 4 seed and are in the state playoffs for the first time since 2016.
“It’s probably more bittersweet tonight just because of all the time that we put in and and the energy we put in as coaches and players to prepare for one school,” Phoenix head coach Denver Pate said. “Tomorrow it’ll feel better knowing that you still have something to play for.”
Sonoraville kept it close through three-and-a-half quarters, slicing North Murray’s edge to 24-21 on junior quarterback Brady Lackey’s pass to senior Josh Kushmaul with 10:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.
However, Mountaineers senior quarterback Ladd McConkey had a response. On a second-and-23, McConkey found fellow senior Landon Burrell for a 47-yard touchdown pass to stretch the lead to 31-21 with 6:44 remaining.
Moments later, McConkey, now playing defense, picked off Sonoraville starting quarterback Brady Lackey and returned the ball 60 yards for a pick six, strengthening the advantage to 38-21. The momentum had fully swung North Murray’s way.
The biggest difference on the night was McConkey’s elusiveness and ability to extend plays.
For the Phoenix, Lackey struggled most of the evening, throwing one touchdown pass and three interceptions.
“When you play a good football team, you’ve got to be able to win the turnover battle,” Pate said. “I thought we won the kicking game ... but against a good football team, you can’t turn the football over, give them short fields, or give them more opportunities offensively.”
Seniors Colton Richards and Blade Bryant each had a rushing score. Bryant crossed the goal line from 8 yards out while Richards cruised 32 yards untouched.
“The kids never got down,” Pate said. “They’re fighters in every aspect.”
Sonoraville, as the No. 4 seed from Region Six, will head back to Gordon County and prepare for its meeting with the Jefferson Dragons in the first round of the 2019 GHSA Football State Playoffs. The Dragons, Region 8-AAA champions, are 8-1 and 6-0 in region play.
“Just be ready to compete,” Pate said on looking forward to the first-round playoff game. “Making sure these kids believe in themselves ... because like I told them at the end of this game, we ain’t going on a field trip, we’re going to win.”
Kickoff time at Jefferson is tentatively scheduled for next Friday, Nov. 15, at a time to be determined.