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Spring swing football: New coach Murray knows expectations at Charlton County

Longtime assistant takes over for McWhorter in Folkston

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FOLKSTON, Ga.NewsJax’s high school football Spring Swing continues daily throughout spring practice across the First Coast. Today, we’ll take a quick look at Charlton County.

Russ Murray knows the history at Charlton County. He’s been a part of it for a long, long time. 

He knows that replacing longtime coach Rich McWhorter is going to be a tough assignment — taking over for a coaching legend is never easy — but it’s one that he’s well-prepared for.

As far as keeping the continuity at Charlton, the Indians couldn’t have done much better. Murray started at Charlton in 1995 and served across a number of positions in that span, from middle school to assistant head coach. 

McWhorter won three outright state titles and shared another with Dublin after 13-all tie in the 2006 title game. Murray was around for all of them. 

“There’s pressure, we want to keep this ship going,” Murray said. “Luckily, I was with him through 24 of those years, I like to hope I played a little part in that. Of course, he was the captain. … Some things are going to look the same, but there’s going to be a lot of changes. I’ve got to put our spin on it, or basically the kids’ spin on it.”

Just what type of football history is up in Charlton County? A lot of it. 

When McWhorter resigned last December to take the head coaching position at Jackson County, it marked the close of a chapter in area football history.

After Bolles’ Corky Rogers retired due to health reasons following the 2016 season, that passed the reins to McWhorter as the longest-tenured on the First Coast. McWhorter’s first season with the Indians was in 1990, one season after Rogers was hired at Bolles.

McWhorter left with a record of 288-79-2, which ranks 14th in state history, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. 

Enter Murray, who had a passenger seat view of it all, from the state championships and staggering regional success, to coaching future NFL players along the lines of Boss and Champ Bailey, Chris Milton and Larry Smith. 

Those seasons and accomplishments are still very well-known in Folkston. Charlton has had just two seasons under .500 in the past 29 years. 

“Expectations are still here, we’re going to play every game, try to win it, and then get in the playoffs and try to win it, try to win the state championship,” Murray said. “We’ve kind of gone back a little bit, our focus now is we’re trying to win the day. If we win the day, we win the weeks. We win the weeks, we win the months and the years, you know how it goes.”

The Indians are coming off of an 8-4 season and have a brutal region that includes the two best teams in Class A. Clinch County beat Irwin County for the state championship in both 2017 and ‘18. 

“We just got to get a little stronger in the weight room and less mistakes out on the field and we just got to work every day, win the day, and we’ll hopefully get there,” Murray said. “We’re just going to try and do our best.
“I love these 50 kids we’ve got and I tell you what, we’ve had a great spring so far. We’ve got a lot better than we were when we started and that’s all you can ask for.”

Charlton County 2019 football schedule

Aug. 23, Charlton County at Frederica Academy

Aug. 30, Charlton County at Brantley County

Sept. 6, Appling County at Charlton County

Sept. 13, OFF

Sept. 20, Charlton County at Atkinson County*

Sept. 27, Charlton County at Turner County*

Oct. 4, Irwin County at Charlton County*

Oct. 11, OFF

Oct. 18, Charlton County at Wilcox County*

Oct. 25, Telfair County at Charlton County

Nov. 1, Charlton County at Clinch County*

* Indicates region game

All games at 7:30 p.m.


About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.