EVERETT — Outside of the small circle of coaches and the players lining the Archbishop Murphy sidelines, few people knew what to expect when the Wildcats took on Squalicum Friday night in the district playoffs.
A pass on the first play of the game wouldn’t have been many people’s the first guess.
After a 30-yard completion between Murphy quarterback Camden Buchanan and Brandon Byrne to open the game, the Wildcats got down to business and did what they do best: run the ball, play shutdown defense and win.
Led by Alex Galgano, who finished with 227 yards rushing and six touchdowns, and a stifling defense that didn’t allow Squalicum a first down until midway through the second quarter, the Wildcats trounced the Storm 44-16 in a 2A District 1/2 football game.
The win comes after more than a month since Archbishop Murphy’s coaching situation was thrown into chaos after Bill Marsh quit and Michael Allison was put on paid administrative leave within a few days. Since then the Wildcats had won four in a row but were rarely challenged in those games, so Friday night’s game was somewhat of a mystery for observers outside the program.
Consider the mystery solved.
“We talked about it a little bit and how we just wanted to get back to football,” said coach Mike Pluschke, who is sharing coaching duties with a number of other coaches while Allison remains on leave. “It’s five weeks now that we’ve been at this thing and we put everything else to rest and we said let’s just move forward and let’s play football the best we can and have the best season for these seniors. We drew a line in the sand and said ‘Hey we’re zero-and-zero from this point on. Let’s put together the best possible ending we can write.’ “
That ending got off to a good start Friday night. After the Buchanan-Byrne hookup got Murphy inside Squalicum territory, the Wildcats’ first drive fizzled out and they were forced to settle for a Foster Wade 23-yard field goal. But Murphy would go on to force Squalicum into three three-and-outs and one four-and-out and the Wildcats took a 23-0 lead in that time. Murphy held Squalicum to just seven total yards in those four drives.
“Our defense was just locked on what they could do tonight,” said Pluschke, who is calling the defensive plays while Roger Brodniak is calling the offense. “I give a ton of credit to Steven Kane. He’s the best mike-backer (middle linebacker) I’ve ever coached.”
On the offensive side of the ball Murphy was led by Galgano and fellow running back Hans VanderWel. Galgano was the bell cow, but VanderWel contributed 83 yards rushing and Pluschke said he was a big part of why Galgano had such a big day.
“I would compete with the rest of the state for a better 1-2 combination than Hans VanderWel and Alex Galgano,” Pluschke said. “The thing about those guys they’re so unselfish they block harder for each other than they run the ball.”
Besides a pair of short TD dives, Galgano had touchdown runs of 33, 8, 19 and 12 and made some ankle-breaking moves doing it.
“You got a chance to see how good Alex Galgano is in open space,” Pluschke said. “He had a couple moves where they were incredible. Just filthy moves.”
Murphy advances to the state tournament once again and will face Bremerton next week in the first round.
At Everett Memorial Stadium
AM—Wade 23 FG
AM—Galgano 3 run (Wade kick)
AM—Galgano 1 run (Run fail)
AM—Galgano 33 run (Wade kick)
SQ—Manchester 5 run (Garcia pass from Hazlett)
AM—Galgano 8 run (Wade kick)
AM—Galgano 19 run (Wade kick)
SQ—Garcia 28 pass from Hazlett (Hazlett run)
AM—Galgano 12 run (Wade kick)
Records—Squalicum 6-4 overall. Archbishop Murphy 7-2.