Robbinsville wins first conference title since 2015

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Black Knights finish regular season undefeated, edge Murphy in championship thriller

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Murphy – In a high-stakes situation, Robbinsville hit the jackpot.

The Black Knights (11-0) rallied from a halftime deficit Friday night at Murphy (9-2) to stun the Bulldogs 17-14, clinching the program's first Smoky Mountain Conference title since 2015.

"Kids did a great job; the coaches did a great job preparing them," said an emotional Dee Walsh, head Robbinsville coach, after the game. "We needed some breaks and it worked out. 

"The defense is what really won this game. We usually score more than this, but hey, they're a good team; they're the defending state champs. We knew they were going to give us everything they had."

Murphy struck first, scoring on a 15-yard Ray Rathburn carry with 2:17 left in the first quarter. The Knights later tied the game at 7-7 on a 3-yard pitch from Nathan Collins to Lex Hooper, but the Bulldogs took a 14-7 lead into the locker room when Devonte Murray dove into the end zone on a 9-yard rush in the second quarter.

Special teams woes did nothing but benefit Robbinsville in the second half, however, as the Knights recovered a fumbled kickoff returne at the outset of the third quarter. Cody Cline would end the drive by splitting the uprights on a 33-yard field goal, before Rylee Anderson would later block a Payton McCracken punt that Robbinsville recovered deep in Murphy territory. Three plays later, Collins scored on a 4-yard keeper and the Knights defense took care of the rest, as the Robbinsville players, coaches and faithful went into a frenzy once the buzzer struck zero.

The Knights now await playoff seeding – which will be released Saturday – but Robbinsville is likely looking at the No. 1 spot in 1A and a first-round bye as a result.

A more detailed recap of tonight's battle will appear in the Nov. 14 edition of The Graham Star.