EVERETT — Standout senior defensive lineman Zion Robinson described Archbishop Murphy’s defensive front seven as having a “dog mentality.” Wildcats coach Mark Leone took a more technical approach.
“We talk about playing good gap control, going to your assignments, doing your job,” Leone said. “Also, we have some talented guys up front, and we really wanted to stop North Kitsap’s run game. That was our first priority defensively.”
Archbishop Murphy dictated the line of scrimmage during its Class 2A state-tournament opener, overwhelming North Kitsap with its physical defensive play. The No. 8-seeded Wildcats held the No. 9 Vikings to under 130 total yards and recorded a 46-0 statement win Friday night at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“It’s that dog mentality,” Robinson said. “We come into every game thinking that the man in the front of you, he is not better than you. You got to keep pounding him into the dirt and take his will away.”
Robinson combined with teammates Joe Ennis, Josh McCarron, Jack Johnson and the rest of the Archbishop Murphy defense to hold North Kitsap to 27 rushing yards, as the Vikings never ventured into the Wildcats’ red zone after North Kitsap’s second possession.
The win advanced Archbishop Murphy (8-2) to the state quarterfinals, where it will face No. 1-seeded Tumwater next week. The victory also kept an impressive playoff streak in tack. In all 14 state playoff appearances since 2002, Murphy has never lost a first-round playoff game.
While the Wildcats’ defense recorded a shutout, Murphy’s offense was rolling, too. The 46 points was the second most the Wildcats have scored this season, and Murphy largely accomplished that without senior running back Mason Mathis, who exited early in the second quarter.
Freshman running back Ryan King filled in admirably, rushing for a game-high 84 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Quarterback Victor Gabalis threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns, and Ennis was the recipient of both.
Ennis made his impact felt beyond catching passes, although he had a team-high 57 receiving yards on four receptions. He added two sacks and recorded a safety when he blitzed off the edge in the second half and brought North Kitsap quarterback Colton Bower down in his own end zone.
“I think sometimes Joe Ennis gets overlooked because he is short,” Leone said, “but he always plays with 100-percent effort and gives everything he has. Also, I think playing here meant a lot to him. I think the Ennis family has a lot of ties to Everett Memorial, so for Joe, maybe that was an extra boost that he had.”
Archbishop Murphy started the running clock early in the fourth quarter after pushing its lead past 40 points, but for the majority of the first half, North Kitsap hung with the Wildcats.
Mathis scored on an 8-yard TD run on Murphy’s opening drive before Ennis hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Gabalis to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead at 9:47 in the second quarter.
Josiah Santiago capped a Murphy 11-play, 64-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run with 20 seconds to go until halftime. The Wildcats carried that momentum into the third quarter, scoring 22 points with two touchdowns, a 33-yard field goal from kicker Anthony Veneziani and Ennis’ safety.
A fourth-quarter TD from King, his second of the game, gave Murphy its 46-point lead with 10:46 to play.
Joe Ennis, Archbishop Murphy — Ennis brought energy and a whole lot of playmaking throughout. He finished with 85 total yards, two touchdown receptions, two sacks and a safety.
Ryan King, Archbishop Murphy — Mathis had 75 yards and a touchdown on seven carries when he left early in the second quarter. The Wildcats needed someone to step up and the freshman King did in a big spot, finishing with 118 total yards and two scores.
Zion Robinson, Archbishop Murphy — Murphy has a talented defensive front, and the 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior is at the forefront. He helped command the line of scrimmage and left nowhere for North Kitsap running backs to go.
27 —Total rushing yards North Kitsap recorded on 27 attempts.
Archbishop Murphy will have revenge on its mind when it travels south to play Tumwater next week. The top-seed T-Birds beat the Wildcats 10-6 last year in the 2A state tournament semifinals.