Tom Sorensen

Murphy Bulldogs, Plymouth Vikings embody small-town high school football

There’s a mythology, well earned, to small town high school football.
There’s a mythology, well earned, to small town high school football.

If I could see one N.C. high school football championship game this weekend it would be the Murphy Bulldogs against the Plymouth Vikings.

The Bulldogs and Vikings play at 11:05 a.m. Saturday at North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium. Even if you’re anti-Tar Heel you ought to acknowledge that the stadium is a great place to watch a game.

Kenan seats 63,000. Plenty of good seats ought to be available. Murphy and Plymouth are 1A schools. Murphy has 498 students, Plymouth 343.

Moreover, the schools could be members of a different species. To reach Murphy you drive west and keep driving west and, just when you think N.C. is about to expire, you drive west.

When people want to talk about the width of the state, they invoke “Murphy to Manteo.” Murphy is at the extreme west and Manteo close to the extreme east.

Plymouth is only an hour west of Manteo. If you want to drive from Plymouth to Murphy, it’s seven hours. That’s about 100 more miles than the drive from Charlotte to Jacksonville, Fla.

The Vikings are 12-3 and have won their three playoff games by an average of 35 points. The Bulldogs are 14-1 and have won theirs by an average of 23.6. To reach the final the Bulldogs beat Mountain Island Charter 35-34.

There’s a mythology to small-school football, and it’s earned. On game nights (and late mornings) the team is the town. Many fans have a son on the team or played for the team or played somewhere or didn’t and are willing to loudly offer their expertise.

These are Murphy’s Carolina Panthers and Plymouth’s Carolina Panthers.

And on Saturday, they’ll play on the same field that former Panthers’ star Julius Peppers did.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

More from this issue of the Tom Talks newsletter: