Thanksgiving preview: Murphy, Raiders set for showdown with Washington

Ryan junior McDermott Murphy will play in his first Thanksgiving Day football game against Washington this year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

McDermott Murphy wanted to play football so bad.

But he was afraid to tell his coach.

Normally that’s not a problem. Coaches love to see an athletic kid sign up for their sport, but when coach also answers to “Dad,” sometimes it’s not so easy.

But that’s what happened last year when Murphy decided to join the football team a few weeks after his dad Bill Murphy was named the coach of the Archbishop Ryan High School football team.

“I was the one who wanted to play, I knew he didn’t want me to play because he didn’t want me getting hurt because of baseball,” said Murphy, who was a highly touted catcher when he arrived last fall from Georgia. “He was the coach, and I was home on Friday nights while he was coaching. The first week I stayed home. The second week I stayed home. The third week, I asked my grandmom to take me to the game. The next Monday I was at practice.

“He didn’t know I was going. I just went out and started practicing and then we had to talk about it. He didn’t want me to play, but I think after he saw me play a little bit and especially this year he realized that maybe I can do this in college.”

Murphy, better known as “Derm,” is now a starting defensive end for the Raiders and he and his teammates are having a much better campaign this year than last year.

Ryan failed to win a game last year and many of the games ended in lopsided scores. This year, the Raiders are 5-5 overall, 4-3 in Catholic League play. They’ll look to finish the season over .500 and at the same time avenge a loss from two years ago when they travel to George Washington on Thanksgiving morning at 10 a.m. It certainly won’t be easy, though. The Eagles went 5-2 this year, losing their first game of the year to Frankford and falling to Lincoln 12-6 in the first round of the playoffs.

Both teams are much improved from when Washington pulled off a huge upset in 2019, and both teams are looking to cap off the year with a win over their neighborhood rivals. Last year, there was no game because the Public League opted to play in the spring because of the pandemic.

“I’ve never played in this game, so I’m looking forward to it because everyone else is looking forward to it,” Murphy said. “It will be fun, too, because my family is all going. My mom, my sister and my brother will all be there. They haven’t been to many games this year, but they’ll all be there. It will be nice to hug family after the game.”

Murphy might not have had fans in the stands at games, but he was always around his dad. The good thing is, while Bill is the head coach, during games he is primarily involved with the offense, so there isn’t a lot of overlapping on gameday.

“I love our defensive coaches, they’re so good, I love playing for them,” Murphy said. “And it’s nice that people can’t say I’m only playing because of my dad. If I’m not doing my job, I’m not going to play.

“Every call the defense makes seems to work. They always put us in good position. At the start of the season, everyone thought our offense would be great and our defense might have a hard time. The offense is great, but our defense has been good, too. We’re very aggressive and look to make plays.”

Murphy has definitely been a huge asset to the defense.

Mostly used as an edge rusher, Murphy starts on a defense that has limited all but one team to 21 points or fewer.

The junior has learned a lot this year and hopes to continue to grow as a football player while still working hard on his baseball career.

“I think in football, playing the sport, athletically came easily because I was a baseball player, and you have to be athletic to do that,” Murphy said. “But I’m still learning a lot about how to play the game. I’m learning more and more every day. We have such a great coaching staff, the defensive coaches teach you. So I’m learning. But I know I still have a lot to learn.”

He’s happy to learn, and he’s happy to be a member of the Ryan football team. In fact, he’s just happy to be at the school.

During the summer, Murphy spent time texting friends, trying to get them to play football. He also joined his dad, going to youth programs to tell everyone about the Raiders. It didn’t take him long to become Ryan’s biggest cheerleader.

“I love the school, the football team, the baseball team, everything,” Murphy said. “The football team, they took me right in and accepted me right away. It’s my second family. We work together. At the end of the day, we just want to play together and get better. It’s not just the football team or baseball team, it’s the community.”

And after Thanksgiving, Murphy will turn his attention to the weight room, where he’ll prepare for next football season and, of course, his first love.

“I love baseball, I don’t know if I’d say I’m a football player or a baseball player,” Murphy said. “In college, I would love to do both, at least commit to a school for both. I’m not sure I’d be able to play both for four years, but I would love to. I’m a baseball player, but I’m becoming a football player. I love them both.”

And now, even dad is happy about that.