For volunteer coach, Raiders are worth a shoutNovember 9, 2017
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
Pick a Southridge Raider football win. Any win. Chances are, you’ll see the same person leading the team with screaming chants of “Raider football!” and celebrating with the jubilation of a kid on Christmas morning.
And, no, it’s not one of the teenagers who had just played on the field.
It’s none other than volunteer assistant coach Kelly Murphy — the man who happened to be head coach last time Southridge won a regional championship in 2007. The Class 2A No. 5 Raiders (10-2) will try to end that drought against Providence (7-5), the team they defeated 10 years ago today for that last regional crown, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Raider Field with a semistate berth at stake.
“After we win big games, he always just gets in front of everybody when it’s his turn to speak and he just goes crazy,” said senior Jayce Harter while doing his best Murphy impersonation, screams and all.
Murphy, who was 66-31 in his eight seasons as head coach of the Raiders from 2005-12 before stepping down to focus on his administrative roles, has acted as an emotional leader of sorts for the Raiders since accepting a volunteer assistant role on Scott Buening’s staff last season.
What brought Murphy back to the gridiron?
“I missed the game. I missed coaching it, and this also gives me more time to be around my son (junior Devin) much more,” Murphy said. “I care so deeply about this program, and my job as principal at (Southridge Middle School) gives me a little more of a chance to do some coaching.”
Kelly Murphy and Buening both mutually approached each other before the start of last season about Murphy potentially joining the staff as a volunteer assistant. Then-Southwest Dubois superintendent Mike Eineman approved Murphy to join the program — as long as it didn’t interfere with his role at the middle school.
“He loves the sport, he loves the kids and he loves the school,” Buening said of Murphy. “I know that he’s been doing this his whole life, and I felt that he needed to be coaching football, especially once his son joined the program. He’s had such a passion for both the game and this school that this idea just kind of worked into happening.”
Murphy, who describes himself as someone who “wears my heart on my sleeve,” said this new role has allowed him to be much more calm during games versus when he was in charge of the program.
While some of that is due to less stress and not having to worry about things such as practice schedules and uniforms — topics Murphy said many people don’t realize head coaches have to focus on — it’s mostly because he’s not on the field right beside the action.
“These last two years I’ve been in the press box as a coordinator, and that was a huge change for me because I’ve had to learn to keep my emotions in check for 48 minutes,” Murphy said with a laugh. “That’s why when the game is starting to get close to the finish and we’re all out there on the field, it just all comes out.”
From working as special teams coordinator with junior kicker Jeovany Dubon on his 19 touchbacks to serving as quarterbacks coach and helping Harter find the open target, Murphy’s impact can be felt at nearly every position on the field.
“(Murphy) was a quarterback growing up himself, so he knows what it’s like to be in my shoes and he’s hard on me whenever he needs to be, which is pretty much the best thing a kid like me could ask for,” Harter said. “He’s taught me really everything about football, and just with knowledge he’s a really good fit for our team.”
There’s one message Harter can recall Murphy teaching him from Day 1, at the first youth football camp Harter was part of: “snap first.”
“I can just picture him saying it in my head whenever I’m behind the center with my thumbs locked for every snap,” Harter said with a laugh. “He’s taught me that you can’t do anything with the ball until you have the ball, so you have to make sure you secure the snap or the drive is ruined. It’s awesome to have a coach that is just as excited about every win, just like you are.”
Thinking back to the Raiders’ last regional championship in 2007, Murphy recalls that not many people gave Southridge a chance in that game.
The Raiders were coming off a state appearance but had graduated 29 seniors from the previous season. However, Murphy’s squad made it to a regional against Providence after beating Evansville Mater Dei in overtime at a sectional championship. Sound familiar?
“I’ve heard stories about that game, and it is kind of ironic that all of those things played into how it’s coming about this season as well,” Buening said, hinting at his Raiders’ 38-31 overtime victory over the Wildcats in a sectional final last week. “I think that something that is huge for us is that we have coaches who’ve been through and lived those games and are passionate about those experiences — whether it’s Coach Murphy or Coach (Steve) Winkler or Coach (Brad) Ohanian. Hopefully we can give these guys the same experience they had back in 2007.”
For Harter, just thinking about winning a regional championship in a town that’s as crazy about football as Huntingburg has him hoping Friday night gets here a little faster.
“It seems like everyone here cares about football — they’re either watching the game in the stands or listening to it on the radio,” Harter said. “To play in a regional game like this in a town like this in my senior year with my best friends, it’s just a dream come true.”
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