4 Questions with Charlton County head coach Russ Murray

High school football

Credit: For the AJC

Credit: For the AJC

Today’s interviewee is Charlton County coach Russ Murray, whose team defeated Clinch County 18-14 for the Indians' first victory in the Swamp War rivalry since 2014. Murray is in his 26th year teaching and coaching at his alma mater through four football state titles. He was promoted to head coach last season.

Russ Murray, Charlton County head coach

1. What was the significance of that win for Charlton County? “We finally got a real win against a ranked opponent rather than a moral victory. We’ve been working hard for two years and had some close ones. We were 1-9 last year. The significance is that it showed our players and this town that hard work pays off. This county has a lot of football tradition, and they’re used to a lot of things. They still support us, and it gives them something back. They’ve been needing that the past two years pulling for our kids.”

2. How did the game play out? What ultimately gave your team the edge to pull out the game? “It had been four weeks since they had played. COVID really messed them up. I almost feel like we stole one. They’re a lot better than we are, but I’m sure not going to trade it in. It came down to both of us making mistakes in the end, and they made more, and we capitalized off some. That offense that they run is so hard to defend. They line up and bowl you over with that single wing. The last several years going against it has been tough because we didn’t have enough guys buying into what we wanted them to do. They did the little things we taught them to do on defense this time. We went from opening whistle to final horn and were relentless as far as competing. We were like a bunch of pesty gnats.”

3. What was your first season like as an alumnus and longtime coach at the school suffering through hard times? “When Coach [Rich] McWhorter left, he left with a big senior class. I’ve been here 26 years, and that’s the hardest we’ve been hit by graduation that I can remember. We basically had to rebuild everything completely. A lot of freshmen didn’t get to watch those juniors and seniors. They had to play. Obviously, being a head coach is different than being an assistant, too. As an assistant, I had all the answers. When you really have to do it, it all falls on you. I knew it was going to be like that, but it was tough having a winning program and facing the fact that you probably would be out of the playoffs and not have a winning season. We spent the whole season pulling them together, showing them what this can be, and we got a glimpse of that Friday night.”

4. What’s the state of the program now, and can Charlton get back to where it was, contending for state titles? “We’re headed in the right direction. That direction is to be competitive again. One of the goals when Coach McWhorter came here was to win week by week, then win a region championship and ultimately win a state championship. We would like to put that in the conversation later on, but realistically, maybe not now. We’re pleased with the progress we’re making. If things continue, eventually we’ll be where things need to be.”

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