Terrell Academy coach Bill Murdock is congratulated by his players on the sideline after Friday’s victory gave him career win No. 200.
DAWSON -- Before the final horn sounded Friday night, the Terrell Academy players were already lining up to congratulate their coach.
The host Eagles held on for a 15-12 victory against short-handed Dawson Street -- a GISA Region 3-A win that was ultimately overshadowed by Terrell Academy coach Bill Murdock's 200th career win.
Friday night's victory wasn't the prettiest of Murdock's career, but it was one that ushered in a celebration of one of Southwest Georgia's most successful coaching careers.
First came the hugs from his assistant coaches and players. Then came back-to-back water coolers dumped on him from juniors Seth Garland and Josh Wardrip. Finally, the field was flooded with family, friends and fans who watched as Murdock was hoisted up on the shoulders of offensive linemen Garland and Casey Jones.
A fitting tribute for a man who has a .704 winning percentage and six GISA state championships in his 22 years as a head coach.
"I'm just proud of all the kids I've coached and all the coaches I've coached with," said Murdock, who won four GISA Class AA state titles at SGA and two GISA Class A state titles at Terrell Academy. "I told our kids that I hadn't made one play in those 200 wins. I've just been fortunate to coach at two great schools and to coach a lot of great players."
On Friday, Murdock needed great plays from several players to hold on to the victory.
Playing with just 15 kids on its roster and two coaches on the sideline, Dawson Street had a first and goal on the Eagles' 7-yard line with seven minutes to go in the game. Terrell Academy had a 15-12 lead, but Dawson Street had the momentum and was one play away from possibly stealing both the game and Murdock's thunder.
Instead, Terrell Academy junior Josh Brunswick picked off Dawson Street quarterback Shekeldrick Boyd in the end zone and the Eagle offense ran out the clock with a 6:27, 75-yard drive to end the game.
"That (interception) was huge," Murdock said. "They had the momentum, we just had a penalty, and they were probably fixing to score and put all the pressure on us."
Wardrip, who led the Eagles with 118 rushing yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, was instrumental in controlling possession on that final drive. Wardrip, who won The Herald's Player of the Week honor on Thursday for his three-TD performance last week against Fullington, was also one of the first Eagles to congratulate his coach after the game.
"We were trying everything to get his 200th win," Wardrip said. "It meant a lot to us, for us to be a part of that. We came out and didn't try to do it for ourselves, we were trying to do it for our coach."
It was the third win in a row for Terrell Academy, which improved to 3-3 overall and 3-0 in the region, while Dawson Street fell to 1-5 overall and 0-2 in the region.
Wardrip got the Eagles on the board first with 10:28 left in the second quarter on a 10-yard rushing touchdown. He then ran in the two-point conversion to give Terrell Academy an 8-0 lead.
Terrell Academy QB Chris Rogers threw a pick near midfield with 20 seconds left in the first half, which led to a stunning series of events that gave Dawson Street momentum at halftime.
With no timeouts and standing 65 yards away from his end zone, Boyd threw a 35-yard pass to Sergio Barrett then scrambled 29 yards for a touchdown as time expired. It pulled the Wildcats to within two points as the teams went into the locker room.
Terrell Academy junior Clint Smith, who led the Eagles defense with three sacks, said Murdock's halftime speech was inspiring.
"Coach just came up, talked to us and told us it's a team effort," Smith said. "Don't blame one person for anything, it's a team. He didn't put anybody down. He picked everybody up."
Brunswick opened up the scoring in the second half by catching a 6-yard touchdown pass from Rogers with 5:48 left in the third quarter, giving the Eagles a 15-6 lead. However, in the closing seconds of the quarter, Boyd hit Antonais Harrison on a 24-yard touchdown pass to bring the Wildcats to within three points.
From there, it was Terrell Academy's defense and Wardrip that carried the Eagles to victory. Wardrip rushed the ball 18 times in the second half and gave Terrell Academy a huge advantage in the time of possession.
"(Wardrip) is a tough kid," Murdock said. "He runs the football hard. Josh isn't the fastest or flashiest kid out here, but he plays hard. He will hold on to the football and protect it and just be tough for you."
Despite the loss, Dawson Street coach Vince Sutton walked off the field happy with the way his team played.
"(Friday) taught me a lot," Sutton said. "It taught me that anybody can play ironman football. We were going both ways throughout. Coming up here playing a team like Terrell was our measuring stick. It let the kids know that we can play football."
Dawson Street was led by Boyd, who threw for 213 yards on 8-of-21, and Shaquille Tiggs, who ran for 38 yards on 13 carries.
For Terrell Academy, Rogers was 5-of-11 for 26 yards and rushed for 32 yards.