SAVANNAH -- North Murray High School's good thing has now come to an end.
The Mountaineers' football team was riding a high of making it to its first Elite Eight appearance in school history, but came up short as Jenkins scored four touchdowns in the third quarter -- dominating in the second half and cruising to a 41-14 win over North Murray in a Class 3A quarterfinal on Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
North Murray saw the best season in school history end as the Mountaineers finished 11-2 on the year, as well as 8-0 in Region 6-3A to win their first football region title. The Warriors improved to 12-1 on the season and will be on the road to face Crisp County next Friday.
North Murray coach Preston Poag said he was disappointed in the loss but proud of the breakthrough season his team had, which also included snapping an almost 18-year winning streak that Calhoun held over region opponents.
"I thought it was a turning point when we fumbled down at the 1-yard line. That changed the momentum because we would have been up 14-0 there," Poag said. "But they whipped us up front on both sides of the ball.
"It was (quarterback) Ladd (McConkey's) last game and I told him he's the most dynamic player I have ever coached. He was all over the field tonight, and he left everything on the field in his last game."
North Murray loses a large class of other senior players to graduation, including Naval Academy commit Chaisen Buckner and playmakers such as Hayden Hulett, Landon Burrell and Dylan Flood. Veteran linemen Aaron McCurdy, Kameron Shook, Dagoberto Hernandez and Hayden Jones are also set to graduate in the spring.
High-powered play was displayed on both sides of the ball for Jenkins to propel them to the win. Its defense forced four turnovers, and running back Damozzio Harris had another impressive performance with 197 yards on 17 carries, including a key 74-yard scoring run. Celebrations were abundant after all the big plays, but once the game ended the players seemed focused on the task ahead.
"We didn't have the best first half, but we told the guys to be patient," Jenkins coach Jason Cameron said. "We made some adjustments and Damozzio had a huge second half. We keep saying let's go 1-0 each week, and you can see by the way they're acting -- how they just went into the locker room after this win. They know we won tonight, but we have more work to do."
The game was tied at 7-7 at the half, and the Warriors struck first after intermission when a North Murray defender lost his footing and slipped trying to cover Darius Bush. Patrick Blake fired the ball downfield, where Bush made the catch in stride for a 65-yard touchdown as Jenkins went up 13-7 with 8:55 left in the third quarter.
On the next Warrior possession, Harris broke loose for a 56-yard gain, and one play later Blake waltzed in from 15 yards out for his second score of the night as Jenkins took a 20-7 lead.
Ronald Cooper III intercepted McConkey at the Jenkins 3-yard line on the Mountaineers' next possession, returning it 38 yards. But just two plays later, North Murray's Flood picked up Blake's fumble and rumbled 38 yards for a score to cut the Warrior lead to 20-14 and swing the momentum.
But Jenkins grabbed it right back on its next play from scrimmage as Harris burst up the guy and hightailed it 74 yards to the end zone to put the Warriors up 27-14 with 2:05 left in the quarter.
"We started slow, but the pass game opened things up for our run game," Harris said. "They had to stay true to their coverages on the outside, and that opened things up in the middle in the second half."
Cash made another huge defensive play just a few plays later. McConkey threw a backward pass that fell to the turf, Cash realized it was a live ball and picked it up as he raced 52 yards for the score.
"This win means a lot to us because we got knocked out in the semis the last two years," Cash said. "When I got that second fumble, I knew it was time to take it to the apartments."
Blake added an 18-yard scoring run, his third of the night, in the fourth quarter. The junior rushed for 54 yards on 12 carries and was 8-of-16 passing for 181 yards and the score.
North Murray scored on its first possession of the game when McConkey did what he has been doing all season long. The senior took off up the middle on a 3rd down-and-eight and found a seam up the left sideline sprinting away from all pursuers for a 53-yard score. The score put the Mountaineers up 7-0 with 8:16 left in the first quarter.
Jenkins got a huge turnover at the end of the first quarter when the ball got away from McConkey at the Jenkins 1-yard line and Cash was there to make the recovery for the Warriors.
Jenkins tied things up midway through the second quarter. Blake threw a deep ball down the right sideline and Cooper was waiting there to make the catch as he turned upfield for a gain of 52. One play later, Blake faked a handoff to Harris and kept it himself -- striding in off right tackle for a 10-yard score.
McConkey rushed for 141 yards and the score on 23 carries and was 13-of-30 for 112 yards and a score with two interceptions. Junior D'Ante Tidwell had 60 yards rushing on 16 carries for the Mountaineers.
"(McConkey) is a great athlete and it's hard to totally contain him," Cameron said. "We knew his scrambling could hurt us, but we did a good job staying disciplined to slow him down."
Jenkins got over the hump that Cameron has been talking about since the playoffs started as the Warriors advanced to the semifinals after two straight seasons of being stopped in the Elite Eight. Now Jenkins is in the semifinals for the first time since 1966, and the players are focused on what's in front of them.
"We're not going to really celebrate until we reach our ultimate goal," Blake told ESPN Radio after the game. "And that's a state championship."
Daily Citizen-News sports editor Emmalee Molay contributed to this report.