WEST COLUMBIA - W.T. Murden and Airport made a strong statement in Airport's Region 5-3A opener against Midland Valley on Friday night at Eagles Stadium.
The Eagles quarterback passed for 313 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles soared to a 38-7 victory over Midland Valley.
"And we had a few dropped balls, too," Airport (6-0) coach Kirk Burnett said. "He's used to being called a running quarterback, but tonight you could see that he can pass the ball too."
Running back Ryan Smith backed up Murden's effort with 81 yards on 12 carries. Airport piled up 458 yards of total offense on the Mustangs (4-2).
Six Airport receivers reaped the benefit of Murden's passes. Derek Cushman had six catches for 83 yards.
"We caught the ball well," Burnett said. "W.T. always throws the ball well, and he froze them (the Mustang safeties) and they were giving us the pass."
The teams battled to a scoreless tie in the first quarter, but Murden and the Airport offense came to life for three scores before the half.
The Eagles first capitalized on Sean Johnson's fumble recovery at midfield.
"We played great defense tonight," Burnett said. "They've got a lot of skill guys and we bent, but we didn't break."
The Eagles marched 52 yards on eight plays and took a 7-0 lead when Smith rumbled into the end zone from three yards out at the 9:35 mark.
Murden capped the scoring drive with a 3-yard scoring run on Airport's next possession. The Eagles drove 74 yards on eight plays. Murden set up his own run with a 49-yard connection to Josh Salley on that drive, which gave Airport a 14-0 lead with 4:47 to go in the half.
The Eagles' defense stopped the Mustangs deep in their own territory, and a shanked punt set the Eagles up at the Midland Valley 47. Five plays later, Murden found Hopkins in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:18 left to play.
The Mustangs showed signs of life on the ensuing kickoff. Jeremy Robinson took a lateral at his own 15 and fought his way to the Airport 32 for a 43-yard kickoff return. A facemask penalty against the Eagles put Midland Valley at the Airport 17, and quarterback Marquett Carr ran it into the end zone on the first play from scrimmage with 57 seconds to go.
It was far from enough though, as Midland Valley coach Rick Knight had expected to see more runs than passes from the Eagles.
"When we looked at the film, they were just like us - dropping a lot of balls," Knight said. "They were catching them tonight."
Murden was 11-for-16 in passing for 203 yards by the half.
Airport took a 28-7 lead early in the third when Murden found Josh Salley for a 31-yard touchdown pass play. In the fourth quarter, Austin Jordan made good on a 26-yard field goal and Davon Howell scored a touchdown on a seven-yard run.
Midland Valley 0 7 0 0 - 7
Airport 0 21 7 10 - 38
A - Smith 3 run (Jordan kick) 9:35
A - Murden 3 run (Jordan kick) 4:47
A - Hopkins 13 pass from Murden (Jordan kick) 1:18
M - Carr 17 run (Holmes kick) :57
A - Salley 31 pass from Murden (Jordan kick) 11:18
A - Jordan 26 field goal 7:58
A - Howell 7 run (Jordan kick) 3:12
First Downs 12 19
Rushes-Yards 26-156 34-145
Passing Yards 48 313
Att-Com-Int 16-5-1 28-18-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-51 3-25
Punts-Avg. 6-23.0 1-38.0