By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
EVERETT — Going into its 2A state playoff game, R.A. Long knew that Archbishop Murphy’s football team could run the ball. The Lumberjacks were not sure that the perennial power from Everett could pass, however.
Wildcat quarterback Austin VanderWel passed enough to keep Long’s defense on its heels Saturday afternoon and Murphy cruised to a 35-10 victory at Goddard Stadium.
Beginning in the second quarter with Murphy (10-1) in a two-receivers right formation, the Lumberjacks put eight defenders in the box, daring VanderWel to pass to Jacob Clark, who was repeatedly left uncovered.
“That surprised me because we’ve been able to pass when we needed to,” Murphy coach Dave Ward said. “We don’t mind throwing the ball.”
VanderWel completed six of 13 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown before sitting out most of the fourth quarter.
“We knew we had to roll the dice somewhere,” Long coach Erik Bertram said.
Until the final minutes, with Murphy playing its second and third team, it seemed like every time the Lumberjacks rolled the dice, they came up snake eyes.
When they played a base defense, Murphy ran down their throats for more than 250 yards on the ground, including an 18-carry, 103-yard performance by Alex Martinez.
When they shaded toward the run, Clark took advantage with five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Clark, a senior that plays in the defensive secondary, the offensive backfield and at receiver, had his first multiple-touchdown game after a big mistake in the first quarter.
With Murphy leading 7-0 and driving deep into Lumberjack territory on its second drive, Clark rushed for 10 yards but lost a fumble at the Long 14, thwarting the Wildcat drive.
“I know that if you make a mistake, you can’t be down,” Clark said. “You come back and work twice as hard.”
He made up for it on offense, also carrying the ball four times for 34 yards, but his biggest play came on the defensive end.
After Murphy’s Keola Wilkins made a nifty run from 21 yards out to put the Wildcats up 21-3, Long quarterback William Yordy tried to go deep on the ensuing play from scrimmage. Clark broke hard on the ball and stepped in front of the receiver, racing 55 yards for a score that for all intents and purposes sent Murphy into the state quarterfinals.
“We’ve been there before,” Clark said. “We know what we need to do.”
The Wildcat defense looks like it will decide how far the team goes in the tournament. Murphy held Long to as many first-half rushing yards as failed fake punt attempts (2).
“Our defense was ready,” Ward said. “They came up with big plays when we needed it.”
In the first half, the MVP for Long was punter Dylan Hopkins. The senior, who also plays linebacker, sailed a 62-yarder deep over the Wildcats and caught a bounce that pinned Murphy back on the 9-yard line.
The Lumberjack defense stiffened for the first time in the game and forced the Wildcats to punt from their own end zone.
A pass interference penalty — Long’s only first down until the fourth quarter — moved the Lumberjacks into field goal range and kicker Kaleb Carr booted a 41-yard field goal that just cleared the crossbar.
Despite 2 yards rushing and just 21 through the air, the Lumberjacks trailed just 7-3 at the intermission.
“We were confident, but we knew we had to stop the mistakes,” Ward said.
The first half story for Murphy was missed opportunities, thanks to penalties, and Clark’s fumble. But Murphy righted the ship in the second half.
R.A. Long’s loss was its first-ever in postseason play after recording its first-ever win a week ago against Tumwater. Bertram was proud of his team and not ashamed to drop a game to a team with the talent level of Murphy.
“They have as good a athletes as we’ve faced,” Bertram said.
At Goddard Stadium
AM—Torres 2 run (Briede kick)
RAL—Carr 41 Field goal
AM—Martinez 8 run (Briede kick)
AM—Wilkins 21 run (Briede kick)
AM—Clark 55 Interception (Briede kick)
AM—Clark 22 pass from VanderWel (Briede kick)
RAL—Johnson 11 pass from Wegdahl (Carr kick)
Records—R.A. Long 8-3 overall. Archbishop Murphy 10-1.