By Aaron Swaney Herald Writer
EVERETT — Sultan defensive back James MacKenzie intercepted a Nolan Rogge pass late in the fourth quarter to secure the Turks first-ever win over Archbishop Murphy, a 21-16 win that locks up the Cascade Conference No. 2 seed.
Trailing 21-16 late in the game, Archbishop Murphy forced Sultan into a three-and-out with 2:03 left in the game. But after chop block penalty on the first play of the ensuing drive moved the ball back to their own 10-yard line, the Wildcats turned the ball over when Rogge floated a ball up to too high for his receiver. Sultan ran four plays to run the clock out and hand Archbishop Murphy its fifth loss in a row.
“It’s great; it’s a good step for our program,” said Sultan head coach Ben Murphy. “But it’s just one step towards our goal. We’re not done. It wasn’t a pretty game, but when you can beat a perennial power like Archbishop it feels good.”
Leading by a touchdown coming out of halftime, Sultan got off to a sputtering start in the second half but remained ahead 14-10 after Archbishop Murphy tacked on a 29-yard field goal by Mason Bailey. But with their backs against the wall, the Turks, led by Cooper Beucherie, got a much-needed lengthy touchdown drive that took up a large portion of the fourth quarter.
Starting on their own 39, Sultan drove 61 yards in 13 plays capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Beucherie that extended Sultan’s lead to 21-10 with 5:56 left in the game. Beucherie had 58 yards rushing on the drive and ran the ball on 14 of the team’s 19 plays.
“He’s a workhorse for us,” Murphy said. “He’s definitely a kid that is a staple for us. We were able to get him the ball when we needed to. We talked to the kids before that drive and said ‘We gotta be able to play smashmouth and sustain those drives and finish.’ And we were.”
But the Wildcats weren’t done, responding with their best drive of the night. Rogge hit Conner Longoria on five straight pass plays and the Wildcats scored quickly to keep their hopes alive. Rogge, who was 5-for-5 for 56 yards on the drive, threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Longoria to cap the drive and cut Sultan’s lead to 21-16 after the two-point attempt failed.
On the ensuing kickoff, Archbishop Murphy’s Bailey hit a pooch kick straight into the air toward the left sideline, where Longoria hauled it in. But the ball failed to go 10 yards and did not hit the ground, giving Sultan possession and setting up the final four minutes of play.
Murphy said that this year’s group of seniors, including Beucherie, Taylor Comfort, Skyler Funderburk and Tom Carter were key to the win.
“In the past when we found ourselves in that position it was 50-50 shot,” Murphy said of the adversity Sultan found itself in late in the game. “But this group of seniors really pulled it together. Those guys grabbed everybody and said ‘We’re going to go down and do this.’”
Sultan took advantage of a pair of early miscues by Archbishop Murphy to build a two touchdown lead. Beucherie intercepted a Rogge pass and returned it 23 yards the game’s first score less than two minutes into the game.
Two possessions later, Jake Varnell intercepted a Murphy pass and returned it to the Archbishop Murphy 30-yard line. Aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Turks’ Antonio Rivas ran in a five-yard touchdown to give Sultan a 14-0 lead and command of the game.
But the Wildcats didn’t go away. After punts by each team, Archbishop Murphy got great field possession at the Sultan 43. After three straight runs, Murphy quarterback Nolan Rogge hit wide receiver Conner Longoria in the left flat and the Wildcats senior took it the rest of the way for a 24-yard touchdown to get Murphy on the board.
At Terry Ennis Stadium
Sultan 14 0 0 7 — 21
Archbishop Murphy 0 7 3 6 — 16
S—Cooper Beucherie 35 interception return (Gonzalez kick)
S—Antonio Rivas 5 run (Gonzalez kick)
A—Conner Longoria 24 pass from Nolan Rogge (Mason Bailey kick)
A—Bailey 29 FG
S—Beucherie 3 run (Gonzalez kick)
A—Longoria 10 pass from Rogge (Bailey kick)
Records—Sultan 3-2 league, 3-4 overall. Archbishop Murphy 0-4, 1-5.