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Amazing Seasons 


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          The 1983 Murphy Panthers put together an amazing season. The Panthers were coming off a 3-7 season under first year head coach Larry Henderson. It was the first losing season in sixteen years at Murphy so the expectations were just to get back on a winning track in 1983.

          The Panthers returned a dozen starters, six on offense and six on defense, along with 25 returning lettermen. Todd Abrams returned as the quarterback along with running back Paul Davenport and receiver John Gates. Coach Henderson was also high on sophomore running back Michael Pierce. All-Region tackle, Bill Condon returned to anchor the offensive line. Noseguard Joel Stallings, tackle Normand Dean, end Charles Kimbrough and free safety Rodney Jones were also returning starters on the defense.


  Murphy 3   11   0   21   35  
  Baldwin County 0   0   9   0   9  

          Murphy opened the season by traveling to Bay Minette to face the Baldwin County Tigers. Michael Pierce rushed for 202 yards and scored on a 45-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to break open a close game. The Panthers led 14-9 but scored 21 unanswered points in a 35-9 victory.


  McGill 0   3   3   0   6  
  Murphy 6   6   15   13   40  

          Against McGill the following week, Pierce ran for 243 yards on 18 carries in a 40-6 win over the cross-town rival Yellow Jackets. He scored on runs of 79, 68 and 19 yards to pace the offense.


  Murphy             32  
  Blount 0   0   0   0   0  

          Pierce ran through the Blount defense for 235 yards in the Panthers third game of the season as they shutout the Leopards 32-0.


  LeFlore 0   0   0   6   6  
  Murphy 10   14   7   7   38  

          The Panthers climbed into the top ten of the ASWA rankings appearing at No. 9 after their 3-0 start. Next up were the LeFlore Rattlers in week four. Pierce ran for 134 yards on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns as the Panthers defeated LeFlore 38-6. In four games Pierce has rushed for 820 yards and 11 touchdowns.


  Davidson 0   0   0   0   0  
  Murphy 14   12   14   0   40  

          Against a one-loss Davidson team, the Panthers put on a display of offense and defense in a 40-0 win over the Warriors. Pierce ran for 127 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns. Abrams completed 5-of-6 passes for 156 yards and two more touchdowns.

          Abrams connected with Gates on a 73-yard scoring pass to give the Panthers a 26-0 lead just before halftime. The defense held the Warriors to just 125 yards of total offense on the night.


  Murphy 6   12   21   0   39  
  Shaw 0   0   0   0   0  

          Pierce surpassed the 1,000 yard mark in sixth game of the season. He rushed for 162 yards on 19 carries and score twice in a 39-0 win over the Shaw Rebels. The defense scored on two first half safeties to set the tone for the game.


  Murphy 14   0   0   0   14  
  Theodore 0   0   0   0   0  

          The Panthers scored two first quarter touchdowns against Theodore the next week and held on for a 14-0 win over the Bobcats. Pierce kept up his torrid pace by rushing for 152 yards on 29 carries and scored both touchdowns for the Panthers.


  Williamson 0   0   7   0   7  
  Murphy 7   7   0   14   28  

          The fifth-ranked Panthers stayed undefeated with a 28-7 win over the Williamson Lions at Ladd Stadium in week eight of the 1983 season. The defense limited the Lions to 168 yards of total offense while the offense rushed for 242 yards.

          For the first time all season Pierce was held to under 100 yards rushing as he managed just 67 yards on 17 attempts. He had been bothered by a hamstring pull and was used only sparingly. Paul Davenport picked up the slack by running for 97 yards on 18 carries.


  Murphy 0   0   7   7   14  
  Fairhope 0   7   3   0   10  

          Week nine saw an epic matchup of top ranked teams when the Panthers traveled to Fairhope to take on the 8-0, and fourth ranked, Pirates. Murphy came from behind to win 14-10 as Pierce rushed for 155 yards and two touchdown.

          Fairhope took a 10-7 lead late in the third quarter before Pierce scored on a two-yard run on the next Murphy possession. The Panthers outgained the Pirates 368-134 and controlled the football for over thirty minutes during the game but four fumbles kept the game closer than it really was.


  Vigor 0   0   0   0   0  
  Murphy             7  

          The defense was magnificent in a 7-0 win over the Vigor Wolves for their fifth shutout of the regular season. Star running back Michel Pierce was sidelined with a thigh injury and did not play in the game. The Panthers were 10-0 heading into the first round of the playoffs in a rematch with the Pirates from Fairhope.


  Fairhope 0   7   0   14   6   27  
  Murphy 13   0   0   8   8   29  

          The Panthers were without the services of their star running back Michael Pierce. The two teams fought to a 21-21 tie during regulation before Murphy managed to pull out the win in overtime.

          The Panthers got the football first in overtime and scored on a fourth down three yard dive by quarterback Abrams. Coach Henderson decided to go for a fake on the extra point that worked to perfection and the Panthers had a 29-21 lead. The Pirates came back to score on third down but a two-point conversion try was stuffed.


  Murphy 14   0   0   3   17  
  Theodore 0   0   0   6   6  

          Next up was another rematch with the Theodore Bobcats in round two of the playoffs. The Panthers defense held the Bobcats to 140 yards of total offense in 17-6 victory at Ladd Stadium. The win set up a semi-final matchup with No. 1 ranked Jeff Davis at Ladd Stadium.


  Jeff Davis 6   0   0   0   6  
  Murphy 6   0   6   8   20  

          Murphy broke open a 6-6 halftime tie with 14 points in the second half to defeat the Volunteers 20-6 and advance to the state championship game. The final touchdown came with just 13 seconds remaining in an otherwise close game. Jeff Davis never sustained a drive in the second half against the Murphy defense.

         Davenport rushed for 126 yards on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns to led the offense before over 15,000 fans at Ladd Stadium in Mobile. The win propelled the Panthers to their first title game appearance since a 1976 loss to Mountain Brook.


  Austin 0   0   0   0   0  
  Murphy 7   0   0   0   7  

          The Murphy Panthers became the first Mobile team to win a state championship since the playoffs began in 1966. The game matched two unbeaten teams and was played in a heavy rainstorm at Legion Field. Senior fullback Paul Davenport's 27 yard run early in the game gave Murphy all the points they needed to claim the title.

          The Panther defense prevented the Black Bears from scoring from the Murphy 14 and 7 yard lines in the first half and again from their 36-yard line in the second half. It was the first time two unbeaten, unties teams had met in a 4A championship game. Austin came into the game averaging 28 points and 333 yards of total offense but on this rainy night they gained only 94 yards.

          Tackle Joel Stallings recovered an Austin fumble at midfield with just over five minutes remaining in the game and Murphy retained possession of the football for the rest of the game and ran out the clock for their first state championship.

          Bill Condon paced Murphy to a state title his senior season. He was dominating force on the offensive line for the Panthers and was named second team All-USA Today in 1983. Michael Pierce rushed for over 1,400 yards while playing in only nine games due to injuries.

          Named to the Birmingham News first team all-state squad were linemen Bill Condon and Norbert Dean. Michael Pierce made the second team. Back Paul Davenport and quarterback Todd Abrams were selected to the honorable mention team.




1983 Murphy Panthers


Murphy Coaching Staff



Murphy
1983

9/2 35 Baldwin County . . . . . 9
9/9 40 McGill-Toolen . . . . . 6
9/15 32 Blount . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
9/23 38 LeFlore . . . . . . . . . . . 6
9/30 40 Davidson . . . . . . . . . . 0
10/7 39 Shaw . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
10/14 14 Theodore . . . . . . . . . . 0
10/20 28 Williamson . . . . . . . . 7
10/28 14 Fairhope . . . . . . . . . . 10
11/4 7 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
11/11 29 Fairhope * . . . . . . . . 27
11/18 17 Theodore * . . . . . . . . 6
11/25 20 Jeff Davis * . . . . . . 6
12/2 7 Austin # . . . . . . . . . . 0

360 14-0 77

* Playoff game
# State championship game








Amazing Seasons, a series on the greatest seasons in high school football history


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