LFO Warriors

The North Murray Mountaineers scored 17 points in the final 3:04 of the first half and tacked on one more touchdown in each of the final two quarters to pick up a 31-0 victory at LFO on Friday night.

The victory gave North Murray (8-1, 7-0) their first-ever region championship, while LFO fell to 4-5 overall and 4-3 in Region 6-AAA play. The Warriors must defeat Calhoun at home next Friday night to automatically qualify for the Class 3A state playoffs.

Frigid temperatures greeted the teams they took the field at Tommy Cash Stadium and the resulting first half was a sloppy one on both sides. North Murray's first three possessions of the first half resulted in turnovers, while the fourth ended with a punt.

Meanwhile, LFO's first five possessions ended with three punts, an intercepted pass and a missed 28-yard field goal as both teams were still scoreless late into the second quarter.

But with 3:04 remaining before halftime, North Murray quarterback Ladd McConkey ran a draw play right up the middle of the field untouched for a 40-yard TD and the initial score of the game. The first of three extra points by Owen Hannah gave the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead.

The Mountaineers would catch a break seconds later as LFO muffed the kick return with Alex Pulido recovering the ball to set up shop at the LFO 38-yard line. Two short runs and one 15-yard LFO penalty later, McConkey threw across the middle to tight end Chaisen Buckner, who outran the defense for a 22-yard score to increase the lead to 14-0.

The Warriors would get the ball with 2:25 left in the half and used a North Murray penalty to pick up a first down near midfield. But, facing third-and-22 from its own 43-yard line, LFO saw the ball knocked free as North Murray recovered the loose pigskin. Another 15-yard penalty on LFO after the play placed the ball at the Warriors' 37-yard line with 35 seconds to go.

McConkey bolted for 18 yards on first down, but two incomplete passes and a short Dante Tidwell run would force North Murray to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Hannah with two seconds left on the clock as the Mountaineers would take a 17-0 lead into the locker room.

The visitors from Chatsworth drove from their own 20-yard line across midfield on their first possession of the third quarter, but the Warriors would force a fumble to get the ball right back. LFO would march from its own 42 down to the North Murray 29 before the Mountaineers' defense rose up to stop the drive on fourth down with six minutes to go in the third quarter.

Eleven plays and 74 yards later, it was McConkey finding Tidwell on a quick slant from the 5-yard line to boost the lead a 24-0 with 26 seconds remaining in the third quarter. McConkey highlighted the drive with a 26-yard run and a 19-yard pass to Tidwell earlier in the march.

The fourth quarter would be a long one for the Warriors. They would fumble at the North Murray 38 on their ensuing possession, which was ultimately converted into a final touchdown as McConkey hit Landon Burrell for 36 yards with 8:09 left to play. LFO would fumble on its very next play from scrimmage, while punter Alec Gentry was taken down for a 6-yard loss on the Warriors' final possession because of a low snap on a punt.

McConkey had a big night for the Mountaineers. He rushed 13 times and accounted for 157 of North Murray's 236 yards on the ground. He also completed 11-of-15 passes for 96 yards, while Tidwell had 15 carries for 67 yards.

LFO was held in check all night by the Mountaineers defense. The Warriors rushed 41 times for just 119 yards. Seven different ball carriers got in the books for LFO. Quarterback Malachi Powell led the way with 39 yards on nine carries, while Benji Valdes had 38 yards on 14 carries. Powell also was 0-of-4 with one interception through the air.

Jacob King had an interception for the Warriors on defense, while Zion Martin and Jerry Jackson each recovered a fumble for LFO.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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