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Valencia's Sean Murphy: The Metamorphosis

Valencia quarterback Sean Murphy has transformed into one of the league’s best

Posted: October 25, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 25, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Valencia quarterback Sean Murphy is having a breakout season for Valencia. Valencia quarterback Sean Murphy is having a breakout season for Valencia.
Valencia quarterback Sean Murphy is having a breakout season for Valencia.

Looking back, it’s hard to find such a striking year-to-year disparity as the difference between Valencia High quarterback Sean Murphy of 2011 and Sean Murphy of 2012.

In 2011, Murphy was average — very average.

The Valencia offense, known year in and year out as one of the most dynamic and high-octane offenses in the Southern Section, was vanilla.

The passing game became simple. Short outs, screen passes — plays that looked more safe than daring.

Valencia head coach Larry Muir attributes that to a number of factors.

While Murphy took the brunt of the criticism from his fellow classmates, it was a combination of things that led to the Vikings’ lackluster offense in 2011.

It was Murphy’s first season as varsity quarterback, and he took over for one of the valley’s most successful quarterbacks ever — All-CIF quarterback Alex Bishop. There was little cohesiveness with the top three wide receivers — Malik Townsend was a varsity rookie, Tedric Thompson was an impact defensive back who seemed to tire going both ways and Jay Jay Wilson was a freshman.

Valencia in 2011 was a run first, play-action team that didn’t have a lot of success running the football. Muir says it was an offense that he didn’t prefer, but he saw the offense as being limited and therefore played things safe.

“It was definitely hard last year,” Murphy says. “I would say I have a lot more confidence than last year. Everything’s sort of gotten easier. Everything was harder last year. Now, I’m more comfortable with the offense.”

In the summer, Muir was asked about Murphy’s progression.

He made assurances that Murphy was a dependable quarterback and the offense would go.

When asked if the offense was going to open up a bit and if Murphy was able to throw the deep ball with accuracy, Muir again gave the affirmative.

Now, eight weeks into the football season, the Vikings offense is going deep, going short, passing first, running second and Murphy is steering the ship with phenomenal success.

Murphy has a 61 percent completion percentage, 2,408 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

He has four 300-yard-plus passing games and three games with at least five touchdown passes.

In 2011, he had a 58 percent completion percentage, with 1,577 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.

Murphy threw for a school record six touchdown passes and added 473 yards in a 54-41 win against Canyon last Friday.

His highs last season were two touchdowns and 178 yards.

How could he have such an astonishing turn from one year to the next?

He’s not bigger.

Murphy says he’s been 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds for three years in a row.

His offensive line has been a makeshift one in 2012, with multiple injuries causing shifts in players and positions — so that’s not a reason.

There’s no key running back who has caused defenses to focus off of him.

“Work,” says Muir on what has made Murphy into a different quarterback this season. “He is a tireless worker and has put so much time into being a better quarterback.”

Murphy’s had a lot of people in his corner over the years.

His father, Greg, was a quarterback at Burbank High in the early 1980s. He gave his son this advice coming into the season: “Go out there with confidence. You got to be the man and take control of it.”

Bishop, who Murphy says he worried about replacing and living up to, called Muir earlier this season and asked if he could watch film one on one with Murphy.

They did so the day after Murphy had an up-and-down game, yet still threw five touchdowns in a 48-9 win over Righetti.

In the summer of 2011, when Murphy took over as varsity quarterback after Bishop graduated, Bishop went to Murphy’s house to deliver him a letter.

“He talked to me about how it was my turn to be the Vikings’ quarterback and it’s my team now,” Murphy recalls.

Muir points to another reason why everything has come together for Murphy this season — his many targets.

Junior Nick Jones, who was a junior varsity player last year, has emerged as the top target with his ability to beat defenders downfield and get in the end zone.

Wilson and Thompson are big, physical players who can be possession guys as well as players who can break tackles on short throws.

And Townsend is a diminutive, speedy tackle-breaker who stretches the field.

“I really think that this year he has a lot of talented receivers he can get it out to,” Townsend says. “We give him a lot of confidence and the no-huddle offense, he doesn’t have to think too much.”

The offense has not been simplified at Valencia, it’s just been made quicker, and that has been a major benefit to Murphy, who has thrived this season. And he has been a better decision maker and improviser this season.

“Sean’s done a great job when the pocket is collapsing,” Townsend says. “His ability to throw on the run is phenomenal. He doesn’t panic when he’s pressured at all.”

Valencia has won three straight Foothill League titles. The league titles are a measure of success. But the demands of being Valencia’s quarterback include beating what are considered the two other perennial Foothill powerhouses — Canyon and Hart.

It’s been two years in a row that a Murphy quarterbacked Vikings team has beaten the Cowboys. But last year, the Vikings fell short in a Hart 19-14 come-from-behind win. For Murphy, the 180-degree turn would truly be made complete by a victory over the Indians on Friday. On top of that, Murphy will go from being not just the kid who had one of the most striking local turnarounds in memory, but considering how powerful Hart is this year, he will go down in Vikings lore as something more special than that.

“It would mean everything,” he says of a victory over the Indians.



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