Sonoraville defense vs. North Murray

Calhoun's Kobe McEntyre (2) and Colton Richards (26) rally to the ball to bring down a North Murray player on Friday night. (Matt Hamilton, The Daily Citizen)

 -- Despite a tenacious and gutsy effort across all three phases of the game, Sonoraville couldn’t quite keep pace with the dynamic offense of the North Murray Mountaineers in a 42-28 that effectively ends the season for the Phoenix. Sonoraville (4-6) fails to make the State Playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

The Sonoraville offense was a bit lethargic out of the gate, with all first quarter drives ending in either a punt or turnover. The lack of production gifted the Mountaineers (7-3) solid field position, which the high-flying, prolific passing attack led by quarterback Preston Poag Jr. was quick to take advantage of.

On the team’s first drive, Poag put North Murray on the board with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Connor Rice, who out-sprinted the Phoenix secondary up the seam. Mountaineer running back Dante Tidwell increased Sonoraville’s deficit with a four-yard rushing touchdown a couple of minutes later. Poag then made his presence felt again by stepping up in the pocket and lofting a perfect back-shoulder throw to Preston Buck in the end zone, which put Sonoraville at a 21-0 disadvantage after just one quarter of play.

Poag aerial efficiency was as advertised, as the junior signal-caller piled up 269 passing yards and three scores. Rice proved difficult to cover all night, snagging 12 passes for 198 yards.

However, even with its back up against the wall, the Sonoraville offensive personnel remained resilient and showed life in the second quarter. As he has done all season, quarterback Patrick Moore carved up the North Murray defense on a quarterback keeper en route to a 25-yard rushing score to dent the Mountaineer lead.

Moore did most of his damage with his legs, rushing for 119 yards on 18 carries.

The Phoenix also received a valuable contribution in the second quarter from the special teams unit when Jo Jo McDaniels broke through the line and blocked a punt, which was swiftly recovered and taken 10 yards over the goal line by Colton Richards for a scoop-and-score touchdown.

Although Sonoraville was able to build a little momentum with those two impact plays, North Murray answering with scores of its own emerged as the key theme of the game. The Mountaineers tacked on two more scores before the half, with Poag connecting with Rice again for an 18-yard receiving touchdown and Tidwell popping off his biggest run of the night for 67 yards and six points near the end of the quarter.

Even as the Mountaineer lead continued to grow, the Phoenix kept battling and managed to force a fumble from Poag on a scramble that was pounced on by Tyler Capps. The Phoenix were able to march down the field in the final minute before halftime, with Moore rolling out and finding running back Tristan Key for a touchdown with 21 ticks left on the clock.

Key topped that play with by knifing through the secondary for an 85-yard rush on the team’s first drive in the second half. But once again, the Mountaineers responded with a four-yard Tidwell plunge over the goal line to stifle the Sonoraville comeback attempt.

Key cut and sprinted his way for 121 rushing yards on seven carries. He also chipped in 74 receiving yards. His counterpart Tidwell rumbled for 179 yards on 23 totes.

It was largely an uneventful fourth quarter, with the Phoenix forcing a couple of turnovers but failing to capitalize to chip away at the final 42-28 scoring gap.

The loss ends Sonoraville’s four-year playoff streak while North Murray will move into the first round of the Class AAA State Playoffs next Friday when they host the No. 3 team from Region 5-AAA.