ROBBINSVILLE — Dasan Gross had a Murphy pass rusher hot on his trail during the third quarter Friday, and saw more Bulldogs traffic between him and the sideline.
Feeling the pressure, the Robbinsville quarterback stopped and threw across his body just as the hit came, finding wide receiver Brock Adams for a nine-yard pass to move the chains.
All nine of Gross' completions went for third-down conversions Friday, as the Black Knights relied heavily on a right arm that hasn't always been viewed as much of a weapon during the senior's lone season as their starting quarterback.
Behind Gross' best game of his career and four touchdowns from running back Cuttler Adams, Robbinsville knocked off Murphy 28-14 to move on to next week's Regional Final on the road at No. 3 Mitchell.
"Everybody's been questioning Dasan, they don't question him no more," Black Knights coach Dee Walsh said. "He did what we knew he could do. I've been telling you all along what a good football player he is, and when we needed him to throw, he did it."
Backbreaking completions, backbreaking drives
Three times Friday night, No. 4 Robbinsville (10-3, 4-1 Smoky Mountain) had touchdown drives of at least six minutes. Each was extended by Gross on third downs, part of Robbinsville's 14-for-18 third-down conversion mark overall.
One of his best throws of the night came in the second quarter, when he dropped a pass over a defender's head to Cuttler Adams along the sideline for an 18-yard pickup. By that point, the sophomore had already caught a 27-yard touchdown pass, and a few plays after Gross converted a third-and-nine, Adams plunged in from a couple of yards out for a 14-0 lead over No. 9 Murphy (9-5, 3-2).
"I had a lot of people doubting me all year. I wanted to prove my best and prove everybody wrong," Gross said. "That's what I did."
Gross operated out of designed rollouts to great effect but also was plenty comfortable in the pocket, picking apart the Murphy defense again and again on third downs.
"They were open, so I just threw it to them," Gross said. "That's all I need to do."
The senior, who took over the starting job after Nathan Collins' graduation in the spring, finished 9-for-11 for 136 yards and a touchdown, two yards shy of his 138-yard career-high performance Week 2 against Brevard. He was just 11-for-23 in that game, however, and had an interception.
He hadn't put up triple-digit yardage in any of the 10 games since, as the Black Knights relied on their run game to rack up wins.
"No one really believed in him at first, I was like, 'Just give him time. He's going to be a really good quarterback,'" Brock Adams said. "It's been crazy to see him evolve. .. He comes out here [tonight], throws, runs, and just makes winning plays."
First-half's wild finish
The game was nearly tied at halftime after a wild play as time expired in the second quarter.
Murphy quarterback Kellen Rumfelt led a touchdown drive to pull the Bulldogs within 14-7 with 3:39 to play, and he got the ball back with just over a minute left.
From his own 37-yard line and one second on the clock, Rumfelt hit running back Ty Laney over the middle, who picked up about 40 yards before fumbling. Wide receiver Juan Allen picked up the ball and seemed destined for a miracle touchdown, but Cuttler Adams brought him down just a couple of yards short of the end zone.
"There were some opportunities we had that we just didn't capitalize on," Murphy coach Joseph Watson said. "You have to make plays when you have a chance to."
Murphy moved the ball with moderate success Friday, but two interceptions (one by Dalton Hill and one by Brock Adams) spoiled two drives, and negative plays doomed a few others. Defensive lineman Tytan Teesateskie had two tackles for loss that the Bulldogs couldn't recover from, and linebacker Bridley Tolbert had a sack that led to a punt.
"They did a good job on third downs, and we didn't do such a good job," Watson said. "In a game like this, you have to get off the field, and you have to convert yourself."
Clicking on all cylinders
The Black Knight offense left Murphy with little room for error.
Last week was the Cuttler Adams show, as he ran 42 times for 377 yards and four touchdowns. He scored 31 more carries and four total touchdowns against Murphy, but thanks to Gross, he didn't need to do everything for Robbinsville.
The Black Knights won the time of possession battle by nearly 20 minutes Friday.
"When Dasan's working, our receivers are moving and our defense is going, it just opens up our run more for Cuttler," Gross said. "Then we're like a working machine. Once we all get going, we're pretty hard to stop."
Adams missed Robbinsville's 33-30 regular-season win against Murphy due to a back injury, but even in that game, Gross had just 58 yards and an interception through the air.
During that stretch without its star running back, Walsh stressed the importance of the offense finding multiple ways to attack teams rather than just rely on the ground attack.
"We had to start learning some different things," Walsh said. "We've steadily been getting better and better."
It took a while, and required some increased health across the board, but Gross and the offense stepped up and showed they can beat you a variety of ways Friday, setting the stage for an all-WNC Regional Final against Mitchell (12-2, 6-0 Western Highlands) next week.
"We want to improve as the season goes, and you want to be your best at the end," Walsh said. "I think we're getting there."
This story has been updated.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Robbinsville football beats Murphy 28-14 in 1A fourth round