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Article Published January 10, 2019
Murphy Kept the Cougars Composed During Landmark Campaign
John Lecardo, Sports Writer

The Haddam-Killingworth football team put together a historic 2018 season that saw the Cougars consistently deliver in big spots on their way to reaching the Class S state final. One of the primary motors behind H-K’s wild ride was senior captain James Murphy, a consummate leader who always made sure that the Cougars kept their cool.

James was Haddam-Killingworth’s quarterback and also played safety on defense this fall. After making his way up the JV ranks the last few years, James took the reins under center as a senior and piloted the Cougars to a landmark campaign. H-K finished with a record of 11-2 that included its first postseason win in program history, followed by the team’s second appearance in a state championship game. James went the entire year without throwing an interception, while helping the Cougars’ defense force 39 turnovers.

“I just tried to set the tone for everyone and help keep everyone on the same page,” says James. “It can be hard to learn the offense, so I would whisper the plays to guys if I had to. I helped everyone keep their composure. We had to keep everyone poised, especially during the state semifinals.”

James had some rough-and-humble beginnings as a freshman, but worked hard to earn two starting nods on H-K’s varsity team during the ensuing seasons. James says he learned a lot about the game as a result of playing on both sides of the football.

“My freshman year, I broke my throwing hand, and it took a while to get back. I was the JV quarterback sophomore year, and then I started varsity at safety by Week 5 last year,” James says. “Playing both positions helps because, as a quarterback, you have to know what the safeties are doing. I like to read their eyes.”

James’s mission to help H-K succeed was evident through his contributions as a captain. James unified the Cougars throughout an arduous journey that ultimately featured a major payoff.

“Being captain was a lot of fun,” says James. “There was a little divide at the beginning of the year between the returning and new varsity players, but the captains tried to make everyone feel like a family, and we got there in terms of chemistry. Being able to bring everyone together was great.”

Head Coach Mike Baklik was impressed by the selflessness that James displayed this season. Baklik appreciates how James realizes that having a couple of superstar players isn’t enough for a team to go on a championship run.

“James is a true teammate that understands just one or two talented student-athletes can’t win on their own and need a strong supporting staff,” says Baklik. “A quote I often share with my team is, ‘It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.’”

James and his teammates reached heights that none of H-K’s seniors had come close to experiencing before this season. James believes that concrete camaraderie among the Cougars was one of the biggest factors that propelled them all the way to the Class S championship clash.

“None of us had ever been on a team that was this successful. I think the best team I was on was 5-5. We just went out, played, listened to the coaches, and had confidence in the playoffs,” James says. “The family aspect here was big. I learned how to be part of a team. You could see everyone blocking and working for each other. We had 11 guys working as one unit, and it made us stronger.”