Bremerton High had risen to the top of the Olympic League in football with a full-throttle approach and a toughness that was reminiscent of its distant glory days.
They brought that attitude to Silverdale Stadium on Friday night for a Class 2A first-round playoff game.
Nobody could fault the effort. They fought hard, making it interesting for a while, but Archbishop Murphy wouldn’t — or in this case, couldn’t — be stopped as the No. 8-ranked Wildcats (8-2) rolled to a convincing 45-21 victory over No. 9 Bremerton (9-2).
Bremerton coach Nate Gillam knew coming in that it could be a long night if the Knights couldn’t slow Murphy’s rushing attack.
That didn’t happen, and despite pulling within 25-21 after scoring on the first possession of the second half, you never got the feeling that Archbishop Murphy was threatened. The Wildcats stayed calm, and disciplined on offense and just kept marching up and down the field.
Murphy unleashed Alex Galgano for 300 of their 531 rushing yards. Galgano got 151 yards on 10 first-half carries and 149 on 10 second-half carries. The sturdy 205-pound senior scored four touchdowns, a 79-yard blast in the first quarter and TD runs of 3, 4 and 36 in the second half.
“Offensively we have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line,” said Archbishop Murphy head coach Mike Pluschke. “The effort was really good and they were really efficient with their blocking schemes.”
Murphy scored on four of its five first-half possessions, and they fumbled the ball out of the end zone or it would have been 5-for-5. In the second half, Murphy scored on its first three possessions, and its second-unit ran out the final 6:30 on the clock.
“Everybody tried to do each other’s jobs and we just didn’t execute,” said senior linebacker Lucas Anderson, the defensive MVP of the Olympic League. “We just kind of fell apart. We played hard, but they’re a good team and they played a good game.”
Gillam was as disappointed as his players in trying to explain what went wrong.
“I think the kids were trying too hard,” he said, standing in the middle of the field shortly after the loss. “I know that sounds silly, but I told them at halftime. ‘We’re not asking you to do more than you normally do; we’re just asking you to do what you do … don’t do more, just do your job.”
Gillam said the Knights got beat on the point of attack.
“A good, hard disciplined team will beat athletes every day,” he said.
Murphy also used the pass at opportune times.
Quarterback Camden Buchanan caught the Knights napping twice, hitting Brandon Byrne for touchdown passes that covered 17 and 42 yards, the last with 13 second left in the half. The last play erased any momentum Bremerton might have had after pulling within 19-14 at the 1:18 mark.
Mikey Lawrence’s 5-yard TD run capped an impressive 11-play, 72-yard drive at the start of the second half, but Murphy quickly took control.
Lawrence ran for 76 yards, but only four in the second half. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 180 yards. He connected with Shaquille Jones for a 67-yard scored in the first half and had a 48-yard completion to Lucas Anderson on a well-executed screen pass on the drive that got the Knights within 25-21.
Gilliam said its tough to lose the final game of the season, but that’s the “double-edged sword,” that the playoffs bring. Only one team in the 2A classification will end the season with a win.
This was the first Bremerton team to reach the playoffs in 19 years, and it had to play its state game without standout Andrew Shadle, their leading rusher and a top linebacker, because he picked up twounsportsmanlike penalties in their playoff win over Renton last weekend.
Gillam said this team “set the bar as far as how to get this far,” for future Bremerton teams.
“This team,” the choked up eight-year coach said, “finally feels like it’s my team.”
Archbishop Murphy 45, Bremerton 21
At Silverdale Stadium
AM—Reagan Gordon 6 run (Wade Foster kick)
AM—Alex Galgano 79 run (kick failed)
Br—Shaquille Jones 67 pass from Mikey Lawrence (Michael Moran kick)
AM—Brandon Byrne 27 pass from Camden Buchanan (kick failed)
Br_Lawrence 5 run (Moran kick)
AM—Byrne 42 pass from Buchanan (pass failed)
Br—Matt Roll 7 run (Moran kick)
AM—Galgano 3 run (Mason Bailey kick)
AM—Galgano 4 run (Bailey kick)
AM—Galgano 36 run (kick failed)