GAYLESVILLE – Cole Murphy has experienced a lot in his varsity football career at Gaylesville.
He literally has the scars and broken bones to prove it.
Everything from a broken left leg as a freshman to his most recent injury, a torn labrum in his left shoulder his senior year, Murphy has bounced back and continued playing at a high level.
Now he has something to show for it.
Murphy was recently chosen as The Cherokee County Herald’s Defensive Player of the Year. The versatile Murphy – who played primarily as an outside linebacker on defense – posted 93 tackles (five for lost yardage), forced two fumbles, recovered three more and returned an interception for a touchdown in helping Gaylesville post a 7-4 record.
Murphy was also the Trojans’ quarterback (a position in which he rushed for 710 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for 467 yards and six scores) and punter (14 punts for a 35.4 average with a long of 54 yards and six punts inside the 20-yard line).
Murphy calls being selected as All-County Defensive Player of the Year “exciting.”
“This makes the hard work I put into it all worth it,” Murphy said. “Some people are like ‘Why do you wake up in the morning and run, then work out more than one time a day and put in all this work?’ Now I’ve got something to show for it. This is a huge thing for me, because not many people from Gaylesville get something like this.”
Murphy isn’t the only Trojan to earn an All-County award.
Trojan freshman running back Gage Davis, who rushed for 1,771 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, earned the All-County Offensive Player of the Year.
Trojan head coach Kyle Garmon, who was hired to succeed former coach Brian Clowdis just a month before the season began, was chosen as The Herald’s Coach of the Year.
Garmon said he couldn’t ask for a much better first season as a head coach.
“I don’t know if you could be put into a better situation,” he said. “Here’s a playoff team with a bunch of talent, and congratulations, you’re the football coach. It was a great group of kids to have for your first year. This bunch of seniors has played so many football games. You just tweak what they do, but they already know how to play the game. They love the game, so you don’t have to instill any of that.
“I’ve got three coaches (Lynn Hunnicutt, Jack Jones and Bobby Lemons) who have coached in more ball games than I’ve ever seen. They’re a great group of coaches, so it was kind of like a perfect storm.”
In the eye of that storm was Murphy and Davis.
“This game is about self-sacrifice – How far can I push my body? How hard can I work? Cole is the definition of ‘I’m going to work harder than everybody else,’” Garmon said of Murphy. “There’s no telling how many times during a ball game I’d call Cole over to the sideline and was going to give him a play, and he’d spit it out before I had it out of my mouth. He knew what we were going to call before we did it.
“Sometimes I’d look at him a certain way and he’d go run a play and it would be what I was thinking. The kids listen to him. We’re really going to miss him in all sports.”
Although he only got to know Murphy for one season, Davis quickly learned what Murphy was all about.
“He’s a real tough player, the team leader. He’s like a coach on the field,” Davis said.
Speaking of Davis, he moved in from Georgia and enrolled at Gaylesville just one week before school started.
It didn’t take long for him to make an impression on the football field.
In a Thursday night rivalry game against Cedar Bluff to open the season, Davis rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-39 victory. It was the first time since 1995 Gaylesville had defeated the Tigers.
“I just run the ball,” Davis said. “I’ve learned from playing peewee ball and have just gotten better.”
“You go back and watch film against Cedar Bluff in Week 1 and he’s not the same kid running the ball in Week 11,” Garmon said of Davis. “You could tell how much better he got when the season progressed.”
Garmon said the Trojans’ physical style on offense “caters to a back like him.”
“We talk a lot about his vision being the best of his skill set. He just sees things,” Garmon said. “I know in the playoffs (at Pickens County), in the second quarter he said ‘I’m not seeing the hole.’ I told him just to ‘slow down, you’ll see it.’ He ended up with about 160 yards, which is probably as much as anybody had all year against them all year.”
Both Davis and Murphy credited their teammates and coaches for making their standout seasons possible.
“We all really worked hard this season,” Davis said. “We had a lot of seniors coming back this year, and some of the juniors and sophomores stepped up too.”
Murphy hopes the legacy he leaves behind carries over to the Trojans in 2014.
“Of course, this was my senior season and I wanted to play harder than any other time, but even when things went bad, even when things got out of hand, I just always tried to stay positive and play my hardest,” Murphy said. “I’m not a loser, and I’m not going to act that way. I’m always going to have a positive attitude and go as hard as I can. Maybe that will transfer to everybody else.”
Joining Garmon, Murphy and Davis from Gaylesville on the All-Cherokee County Team is senior fullback/linebacker Dylan Mitchell, senior center/linebacker Dylan Cavin, senior running back/defensive back Daniel Williams, senior tackle Austin Lindsey, senior tight end/defensive tackle Gable Lawson, junior tackle Seth Dawson and junior offensive tackle/linebacker Allen LaFavor.
The Trojans also had four honorable mention players in offensive guard/ defensive tackle Will Smith, sophomore offensive guard/linebacker Logan Hurley, junior offensive guard/nose tackle Nick Moore and junior running back/defensive back Dylan Evans.
Sand Rock (7-4) had nine first-team selections in senior running back/free safety Chandler Mackey, senior quarterback Dylan Mackey, senior wide receiver/linebacker Ethan Jimmerson, senior lineman Austin Godshall, senior wide receiver/defensive back Zane Farrar, senior wide receiver/free safety Isaac Arnold, senior running back/strong safety Austin Chambers, senior running back/linebacker Dustin Chambers and senior lineman Aaron Adkins.
The Wildcats also had seven honorable mention players in senior lineman Aaron McGarvey, junior lineman senior lineman Matthew Tinsley, senior lineman Daniel Holcomb, senior center/linebacker Seth Mackey, sophomore running back/linebacker Alex McMahan, junior wide receiver/defensive back Chase Garrett and junior lineman Zac Bobo.
Cedar Bluff (4-5) had five first-team selections in senior quarterback Dalton Cosby, junior wide receiver/defensive back Blake Terry, junior lineman Jake Mintz, junior wide receiver/defensive back Devante Dixon and sophomore offensive lineman/linebacker Wesley Richardson.
The Tigers also had three honorable mention players in freshman running back/linebacker Delontae Williams, sophomore running back/linebacker Logan Shinn and sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Jordan McElroy.
The Cherokee County Warriors (3-7) had seven players earn first-team recognition in senior fullback/linebacker Dallas Cabe, senior lineman Chase May, senior lineman Andrew Johnson, senior safety Natron Miller, senior running back Ty Green, senior lineman Brad Minor and senior linebacker Tanner Johnson.
The Warriors also had four honorable mention players in senior defensive back Kenyan Dupree, sophomore tight end/lineman Nahum Horton, junior quarterback J.T. Hill and senior receiver/safety Wade Griffith.
Spring Garden (3-7) had three first-team selections in senior quarterback Will Ivey, senior lineman Hunter Bondie and junior fullback Matt Mullinax.
The Panthers also had four honorable mention players in senior lineman Hunter Crider, freshman receiver/quarterback Ben Ivey, freshman fullback Quintin Downey and sophomore lineman Sam Parris.