CHATSWORTH -- The first quarter was not kind to the North Murray High School Mountaineers offense Friday night. Fumbles, penalties, an interception and an inability to move the ball stalled several drives as Model took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
The second quarter was a different story thanks to "the spark," as North Murray receiver Landon Burrell called it. And Burrell was a key part of it.
North Murray freshman quarterback Seth Griffin, making his first career high school start in place of the injured senior Ladd McConkey, hit Burrell on a 91-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to help propel North Murray (1-1) past Model (0-2) to a 24-7 win.
"I think the excitement off that play really drove us," said Burrell, who caught a late touchdown pass from Griffin to ice the game. "It really got the momentum going for us. Of course, (Griffin) put it on the money that time. He did his part, I did mine, so I think that was kind of the momentum change."
North Murray coach Preston Poag was happy with the "ugly win," but said penalties and a lack of mental focus throughout the game took some shine off the victory. He said his freshman quarterback, who finished with 265 yards on 10-of-20 passing with two touchdowns and an interception, improved as the game went on.
"He came out and made some mistakes, but he made some good plays, too," Poag said. "It's hard for a freshman to step in there and play. I told him at halftime 'You've just got to have a short memory. You can't dwell on things you did wrong.' He'll grow from this. I tell you, being a freshman and stepping into play is hard."
McConkey is nursing a lower body injury that has dogged him for several weeks. He played part of North Murray's opening game against Rabun County but left early due to the injury. When asked if he would play against Ringgold on Friday, Poag said, "We'll see. I didn't do anything with him this week. He's just got to get where he can sprint. We're a dynamic offense with him in there."
While Model jumped out to the quick 7-0 first-quarter lead, thanks to starting field position at North Murray's 11-yard line after an interception, North Murray rattled off 24 unanswered points. After the 91-yard touchdown bomb, Griffin found his groove on the Mountaineers' next drive. He completed three passes, including long gains to Kade Greeson and D'Ante Tidwell, to move the ball to Model's 5-yard line. Tidwell finished off the drive with a touchdown run on the next play. After the extra point, North Murray led 14-7 at halftime.
The North Murray defense had a solid second half and stuffed run after run. The strong defense forced several punts, and the Mountaineers offense was able to capitalize. North Murray scored 10 more points in the fourth quarter -- a 34-yard field goal from sophomore Owen Hannah and a 30-yard touchdown pass from Griffin to Burrell followed by Hannah's extra point. Burrell had a team-high five catches for 131 yards. Tidwell had 69 yards rushing and an interception.
North Murray hosts Ringgold at 7:3o p.m. on Friday for its first region game of the season.