2021 High School Football Preview: Building depth, keeping 'never back down' culture going are goals for North Murray

Doug Smith/onfirephoto.com

North Murray High School quarterback Seth Griffin runs the ball in a 2020 game against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.

CHATSWORTH -- The goal for North Murray High School football was to establish a culture. After that, head coach Preston Poag said, the wins take care of themselves.

"The most important thing in any program is your culture," Poag said. "If your culture believes you're going to win, you don't win them all, but you win some you're not supposed to win. The culture of this program is to never back down."

That "never back down" mentality has served the Mountaineers well under Poag. North Murray finished 11-2, the school's best record to date, in 2019, and the Mountaineers introduced several new players last year but still managed to finish 6-4 and reach the playoffs.

This year is much the same, with some key contributors gone, like D'Ante Tidwell and Cade Petty, a couple of two-way players for the 2020 'Neers who are now suiting up at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

But some key parts of the core remain, like standout quarterback and wide receiver duo Seth Griffin and Michael McDade.

"He's one of our best leaders, he's a hard worker and he's here all the time," Poag said of Griffin, a junior. "You need to be like that as a quarterback."

Griffin excelled last season in leading a Mountaineer offense that put up points with ease. Griffin tallied 1,969 passing yards with 20 touchdowns for an offense that averaged 38 points a game.

"One of the biggest things we're going to work on is when we're back there in the pocket, feeling the rush but don't look at the rush," said Poag of Griffin. "We're looking downfield and making plays."

When Griffin does look downfield, he's sure to find McDade, a senior, often. McDade caught two lengthy touchdown passes from Griffin in North Murray's fall scrimmage against Pepperell.

"We try to get the ball in McDade's hands," Poag said. "He's a mismatch for a lot of defensive backs."

Judson Petty, the younger brother of the graduated Cade, will also get a look on offense at receiver in addition to his role as a defensive back.

"We've got a lot of good returners back, but I've got a lot of good young guys that are going to help us, too," Poag said.

The Mountaineers have several players who will need to play both ways, like Judson Petty. The rest of fall camp for the Mountaineers will be used to find depth around those key players that play both ways.

"The key to our season is having that depth where you can get some of those guys off the field," Poag said.

Fortunately for the Mountaineers, they start the season with two bye weeks, giving them two extra weeks of practice over most teams before taking on Northwest Whitfield on Friday, Sept. 3.

Though the goal is to build depth, Poag hopes that depth will be a luxury rather than a necessity.

"You've got to have your key players stay healthy. Knock on wood, we've had that happen," Poag said. "If you do get some of those guys hurt, you have to have some of those other guys ready to step in."

North Murray

Mascot: Mountaineers

Colors: Black and gold

Classification: Region 6-3A

Head coach: Preston Poag

Last year's record: 6-4

Key losses

RB/LB Noah Lunsford

RB/LB Cade Petty

RB/DB D'Ante Tidwell

OL/DL Carter Reynolds

Key players

QB Seth Griffin, junior

RB/DB Judson Petty, sophomore

WR Michael McDade, senior

K/P Owen Hannah, senior

DE Devin Hunte, senior

Circled on the schedule

@ Northwest Whitfield, Sept. 3

• North Murray's season won't kick off until two full weeks after the official season start date. They'll get an early test with a Class 4A playoff team from last year in Northwest Whitfield.

@ Rockmart, Oct. 1

• This matchup was an instant classic shootout last year in Chatsworth. The Mountaineers fell just short of the Region 6-3A champs, 49-42. This year's game is sure to play another big role in deciding the region.

Adairsville, Oct. 29

• A late-season loss at Adairsville last year cost North Murray an opportunity for a home playoff game. The Mountaineers will want payback for that this year.

Region 6-3A

Adairsville

Coahulla Creek

LaFayette

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe

Murray County

North Murray

Ringgold

Rockmart

Sonoraville

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