FOOTBALL TAB -- Jones and Murdock: Friends or Foes
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 19, 2010 2:23 PM
Freddie Jones and Craig Murdock are so alike and yet so different.
Jones is Goldsboro High School's prized running back and linebacker with a chiseled physique, a bruising running style and a demeanor his teammates can't help but follow.
Murdock is Charles B. Aycock's quarterback turned receiver with blazing speed, pillow-soft hands, a knack for big plays and a million-dollar smile.
The success of the Cougars and Golden Falcons this season will hinge largely on those two seniors who hope to carry their respective teams to high school football's promised land.
Jones, the latest in a long line of great Goldsboro running backs, is coming off back-to-back 1,300-plus yard seasons and has found the end zone 42 times in the past two years.
For a back who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark 14 times during the previous two seasons, the scary thing is Jones is finally healthy. He underwent offseason micro-fracture surgery at UNC Chapel Hill and used physical therapy to help repair scar tissue in his left knee that occurred through normal wear and tear.
Now that he's 100 percent, Jones is confident he can improve upon his sophomore and junior seasons.
"This year is going to be my best year," said Jones. "My knee is stronger. To be honest, I feel my numbers don't matter this year as a long as I get a ring. But, if we do want to go by numbers, I wouldn't mind getting 2,500 yards this year. That takes a lot of work and a lot of dedication."
A patient runner content on waiting for a hole to open, Jones has a rare combination of power to shake off tacklers and speed to run by defenders.
As an underclassman, Jones learned from former Cougars' running back Anthony Council and Hykeem Coley. Those lessons continue to pay dividends.
"I used to look at what they did and they used to give me advice," said Jones. "I took what they taught me and I put it to work and it made me a better player. To be mentioned with them is an honor. I never thought I would be the type of running back I am now.
A starting linebacker on a defense that's surrendered 16 points or fewer a game in each of the last two seasons, Jones rarely leaves the field. He's tallied 185 tackles since his sophomore year and uses a demanding workout regimen to make sure he's still going strong in the fourth quarter.
"The fact that he's played running back will give him a better look at finding that ball from a defensive standpoint at linebacker," said Goldsboro head coach Eric Reid. "That's a testament to his workout habits. You don't get too many kids that can stay on the field to that duration and give you that type of effort."
Murdock began his varsity career as a quarterback before suffering a shoulder injury in a game at Wilson Fike as a sophomore.
Aycock head coach Randy Pinkowski elected to transition from the spread offense back to the I-formation. Once healthy, Murdock found himself as the Golden Falcons' go-to receiver.
Murdock admits he was hesitant to make the move from quarterback to receiver, but he points to a play in Aycock's fifth game of the season a year ago when that all changed. He ran a hitch route against Fike, got by his defender and caught a 59-yard touchdown pass. From that moment on, Murdock has fallen in love with being a wide receiver.
"Everybody had their blocks down and the play just opened up," said Murdock. "Just seeing everybody block like that made me feel like playing receiver was going to be something special."
The move had an immediate impact as the Golden Falcons finished 10-3 in 2009 and made a trip to the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs. Murdock hauled in 45 passes for 759 yards and five touchdowns, and helped play a large part in the maturation process of quarterback Tyler Farmer.
"Craig, he's amazing," said Farmer. "I've never seen anybody like him. He's pretty much my best friend out here. We have a great relationship. He's a great teammate and he works hard. You can't ask for anything else from him."
A nightmare for defensive coordinators and a difficult matchup for defenders in coverage, Murdock presents a number of problems for opponents. Most defensive backs don't possess the speed to stay with Murdock, tackling him in space is never easy and as a former quarterback he's always a threat to throw.
"We look at film and what defenses do, and we come up with plays based off of what they do," said Murdock. "We work on that a lot in practice. It's real fun to show that I've still got the arm."
Different in so many ways, Jones and Murdock can both change a game in the blink of an eye.