published Friday, August 19th, 2011

Football Preview: North Murray Mountaineers’ first seniors get serious

NORTH MURRAY MOUNTAINEERS

Coach: Larry Cornelius 6-13-1 (here and overall)

Returning starters (O/D/K): 11/11/2

Remember these names: Quarterback Brady Swilling (Jr., 6-2, 185) and receiver Jackie Abernathy (Sr., 5-11, 165) make for a nice aerial tandem. And with Swilling finishing eighth at a national high-jump competition, it could sometimes be Abernathy-to-Swilling near the goal line. It’s up to right tackle Danny Eaker (Sr., 6-3, 305) and left tackle Jonathan Smith (Sr., 6-1, 275) to protect Swilling when he’s under center. Dallas Bowers (Sr., 5-11, 180) leads the defense from his middle linebacker position.

Will be a memorable year if: The program that won one game in its first varsity season multiplies that number at least by three or four. A .500 season should make supporters absolutely ecstatic since this is the first Mountaineers team with a senior class.

Schedule

Aug. 26 at Heritagae

Sept. 2 Rockmart

Sept. 9 at Coosa

Sept. 16 at Sonoraville*

Sept. 23 at Lakeview-FO*

Sept. 30 Dade County*

Oct. 7 at Calhoun*

Oct. 14 at Chattooga*

Oct. 28 Gordon Central*

Nov. 4 Region play-in game

* Region 7B-AA game

North Murray coach Larry Cornelius is glad he finally has seniors playing football.

Cornelius scheduled an early-morning practice on a Friday following three days of an intensive on-campus camp. He planned to give the Mountaineers a 30-minute break before another practice.

But about 20 players who had been at the camp missed the first session that Friday. So Cornelius extended the break and told the players who attended that they needed to get the missing teammates they wanted on the team back on the field for the second session.

“Every kid has a phone, and even freshmen were calling freshmen who missed it to get over here for the second practice,” Cornelius said. “The seniors, though, they jumped in their cars and went to kids’ houses and pulled them out of bed.

“In every case, all they did was oversleep after a long week of multiple practices.”

Cornelius said the seniors thought along the same lines as the coaching staff in those moments and brought back the other players.

The coach had never seen that type of leadership from the Mountaineers before. Then again, he’d never had seniors on his squad, which played a junior varsity schedule in 2009 and won one game last year.

Right tackle Danny Eaker, left tackle Jonathan Smith, linebacker Dallas Bowers and all-purpose skill player Jackie Abernathy were seniors who assisted in the awakenings.

“There’s finally a sense of urgency from our players,” Cornelius said. “For almost all of these seniors, they know it’s their last football season. Usually, when put in that situation, they’ll give you everything and more.

“And that more is leadership.”

MEMORY LANE

The Mountaineers don’t have much history, considering this is their second season with a full region schedule. So beating Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 35-21 on Sept. 24 last year, the school’s first varsity win, is the most memorable moment to date.

“It was more special for the players than me, even though it was my first win as a varsity head coach,” Cornelius said. “To get that first win in the first season is just huge. A lot of programs don’t get that until their second year or later.”

Swilling had more than 300 yards of total offense in the game, and the Mountaineers iced it by recovering an unintentional onside kick.

“Compared to other games where we made mistakes and didn’t recover, we did recover,” Cornelius said. “We were down early, but our guys thought we were in the game the whole time.”

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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