Football Frenzy Preview: Murphy vs. Franklin

Photo credit: WLOS Staff

They are Western North Carolina’s two best football programs over the past eight years in terms of winning percentage – and No. 1 would be a lot further ahead of No. 2 if not for an eight-game winning streak by No. 2.

Perennial powers Murphy and Franklin square off Friday night in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at The Pit, Franklin’s notoriously tough home field.

Murphy is 95-27 (.778) the past eight seasons, with Franklin posting an 81-25 mark (.764) in that span.

And nearly a third of those Bulldogs’ 27 losses have come against Franklin, which rather amazingly has won eight straight games in a series that dates back 67 seasons.

Murphy leads the all-time series 35-32, but the Panthers have been closing the gap with the recent winning streak.

While the Bulldogs have won three 1-A state titles (2011, ’13 and ’16) and reached the state championship game on two other occasions in the past seven years, they have had no luck against their 2-A mountain rival.

“Franklin plays us as good as anybody, they scheme us up good every year,” said Murphy veteran coach David Gentry, WNC’s all-time leader in victories. He secured No. 382 last week with a 30-13 win over Pisgah.

“They look at us, and they have got us down. Coach Brooks does a great job.”

Murphy has won 15 straight games over the past two seasons since the last loss – a 42-7 drubbing against Franklin in August, 2016.

Josh Brooks is 104-40 in his 13th year with the Panthers, who were impressive last week in a 33-8 rout at Asheville High.

He admits the success against Gentry’s Bulldogs requires a lot of off-season work.

“We spend a lot of time on Murphy in the summertime, because what they do on offense forces our defense to play very fundamentally,” he said. “They do so much pulling and misdirection, it makes you focus on your read keys and trust those reads.

“We have the upmost respect for what they do and what they’ve accomplished, so to beat them eight straight years means we have played well against them. We’re very proud of the fact that we have that streak against them.”

Both teams, ranked among the top three in the WLOS WNC Football Top 10 Rankings, played well in their season openers last week.

No. 2 Franklin rolled over Asheville despite the absence of running back Brock Kloeppel, a 2,000-yard rusher last season who is suspended for the first two games.

Running backs Grant Stiles (three touchdowns) and AJ Carpenter (two scores) picked up the slack and quarterback Andrew Moore threw for 156 yards.

No. 3 Murphy got a solid effort from star quarterback Joey Curry to roll past Pisgah. Curry threw for 259 yards and two TDs and ran for a score.