The Wildcats have a history of success on the football field and making the state playoffs is all offensive and defensive lineman Dakota Creed has ever known. Prior to losing to Tumwater in this year's quarterfinals, Archbishop Murphy had made the 2A state championship game each of the previous two seasons, finishing second both times. In 2009, the Wildcats made it to the state semifinals.
For Creed, success was expected at Archbishop Murphy. He experienced it as an individual as well. His accomplishments on the football field earned him a spot in today's Earl Barden 2A/1A East-West All-State game in Yakima.
"Dakota was always one of those fireplug type football players," former Archbishop Murphy defensive coordinator and current Cleveland High School head coach Jeff Schmidt said. "He doesn't have great height, but he's got great heart and a great motor. He's got great footwork and good hands. He just kept working at it."
Creed joins just two other players from the area that will play for the West team, Lakewood quarterback and defensive back Justin Peterson and King's wide receiver and defensive back Caleb Taylor.
It will be a fitting way for Creed to cap off a great career with the Wildcats, but his final year at Archbishop Murphy didn't start off so smooth.
"We had a pretty rough season with all of our coaching issues and stuff," Creed said. "It was hard, but we stuck it out and ended up finishing decently well, but by our standards not that well."
After parting ways with head coach Dave Ward after the Wildcats 17-16 loss to Lynden in the 2011 state championship game, Archbishop Murphy hired Bill Marsh to take over the football program. The 2012 season started with the Wildcats 2-0, but then they lost their next two games -- 40-15 to King's and 49-0 to Lakewood. The loss to King's was the Wildcats' first home loss in the school's history.
Marsh resigned following the Lakewood loss and the school promoted assistant coach Michael Allison. Allison was placed on paid administrative leave just five days after getting the job while the school reviewed an investigation of alleged wrongdoing while coaching in Oregon.
The Wildcats played the remainder of the season with a coaching staff by committee. As a team captain, Creed was one of the players who helped hold it together for the Wildcats.
"We are all really good friends, so we knew even though we didn't really have the coaches, we still had the talent and for each other we could just pull it out," Creed said.
The turmoil didn't deter Creed. He still held onto big hopes for the season.
"After you go to the state championship, really anything but that is not an accomplishment, I guess," he said.
Creed didn't play much in the Wildcats' first state championship appearance, but started in 2011 when they faced Lynden. Archbishop Murphy appeared poised to bring home the championship until Lynden overtook the Wildcats in the game's final minutes.
With all the great players who have played at Archbishop Murphy over the years, Creed has had a chance to learn from some of the best and then eventually pass what he learned on to others.
"I had a lot of good talent in front of me," Creed said. "It really helps to be able to learn from them and to be able to look up to them and have them teach you stuff. It kind of just progressed, it moved on from me learning from them and then once I became them, you get to then teach the younger ones that kind of look up to you and give them a model."
Creed singled out former Wildcats lineman Julius Tevaga as playing a key role in molding him into the player he became.
"He's the best football player I've ever seen play the game," Creed said of Tevaga. "He's that good and he really just took me under his wing and taught me what he knew."
Tevaga and Tani Tupou anchored a Wildcats' defense in 2010 -- Creed's freshman year -- that was one of the most feared in the state.
"Having to battle guys like Tupou and Tevaga almost day in and day out, that just made (Creed) a better football player because he always strived to get better every day," Schmidt said. "If he got beat in a drill he would want to jump right back in and prove to himself -- not to anyone else, but to himself -- that he's better than that."
When Tevaga and Tupou graduated, Creed was ready to step right into their shoes.
"When the Tupous, Tevagas and Sam Shobers graduated, he brought the bar, that was set previously over the years -- he kept that bar up there," Schmidt said. "He then made everybody else come up to that bar. You know, as a premier player leaves, that that bar gets lowered. He plucked that bar. He made sure that the history and the legacy of the offensive line and defensive line stayed intact."
A prep career filled with success comes to an end tonight when Creed takes the field with some of the best players in the state.
"It was a great honor, I felt," Creed said of being selected to the West team. "I thought it was the coolest thing ever that I get to play in this. Talking about looking up to people, everyone that I've looked up to in years past has also played in it."
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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