• Connor Silvers (5) and Hunter Rickett (52) lead a pack of Wildcats on a tackle at Rosman on Friday. Mary White/Contributing photographer
    Connor Silvers (5) and Hunter Rickett (52) lead a pack of Wildcats on a tackle at Rosman on Friday. Mary White/Contributing photographer

MATTHEW OSBORNE: Wildcats focus on themselves, not Murphy

    Hunter Rickett is the last Wildcat left from that surreal night in 2015.
    Rickett was a freshman lineman when the Andrews Wildcats dominated Murphy after halftime and got two yards away from possibly ending a generational losing streak to that other team down the four-lane.
    “I just remember being shocked that we were in that position to have a chance to beat them,” Rickett recalled about that rainy night. “It was a pretty cool experience.”
    In the end, the hopes of the faithful at Hugh Hamilton Stadium were doused when a late fumble at the 2 yard line allowed Murphy to escape with its winning streak intact. Andrews’ 7-0 win in 1981 still holds up as the Wildcats’ last victory in the series.
    As Rickett prepares for his last shot at Murphy – he has never been on the winning side against the Bulldogs at any level – he and his teammates have not been hanging bulletin board material or worrying about breaking the streak.
    “Nobody cares about that,” Rickett said. “Some of the guys didn’t even know who we were playing until we started watching film.”
    One would think Murphy would be the talk of the campus, hanging posters of legendary coach David Gentry with The Undertaker’s face pasted on and the Wildcats clamoring to be the 1 in 41-1.
    Nope, not these guys.
    “For me, it’s Week 7. I don’t even think I’ve mentioned the word Murphy to the kids this week,” Andrews coach James Phillips said. “I think after what happened Friday night, this week is more about us. I call it ‘Wildcat Week,’ because we have to get better internally.
    “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, because if we all get a little bit better, Friday night will take care of itself.”
    Rickett was the youngster back in that 2015 game, and now he is tasked with leading a young Wildcats line into what is for most of them their first varsity encounter with Murphy, which has seven state titles and 14 conference crowns since Andrews’ 1981 win.
    “The leadership skills are something I took from (the 2015 seniors),” Rickett said. “Willie (Parker) and Big T (Tyler Holloway) in particular really made me want to be like them.”
     Gentry has never lost to the Wildcats in his illustrious career. With 40 wins over Andrews, more than 10 percent of his all-time Western North Carolina-leading win total has come at the Wildcats’ expense.
    “Coach Gentry coaches them up whoever they’re playing, whether it’s a termite team or the Green Bay Packers,” Phillips said. “He seems to approach it all the same, which is why he’s won (almost) 400 games.”
    “I have respect for their program and for what they do,” Phillips added. “I know they don’t respect us. It’s our job to take care of business and earn respect. That doesn’t happen in one practice or one game, but we have another opportunity Friday night to do that.”
    But you won’t see Phillips – who is 0-5 against Murphy as a player and coach combined – trying to make something of the Murphy streak with his players.
    “For me competitively, I don’t need any motivation,” Phillips said. “I don’t remember needing any as a player either. Regardless who it was, it was an opportunity to go to battle, and these kids are that way. No matter who is out there, they are going to come to play.”
    As usual, these Wildcats are in lock step with their coach.
    “It doesn’t matter who we play. If we do our jobs every play, we are going to win,” Rickett said.
    Matthew Osborne is the editor of the Andrews Journal. Reach him at 837-5122 or by email at editor@myandrewsjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @CNIozzy.

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