EVERETT — Perhaps a state quarterfinal matchup will produce a postseason test for these Wildcats.
After cruising through their Cascade Conference slate and a district game last week, Friday’s state-opener against River Ridge offered more of the same — too much strength and too much speed for the opposition.
Streaks of grey and red tore up and down the Frank Goddard Memorial Stadium field turf Friday night, churning out yards at breakneck speed. More often than not standout running back Ray Pimentel was responsible.
The senior ran for 278 yards and four touchdowns to help Archbishop Murphy open the Class 2A state tournament with a dominating 47-7 win over River Ridge.
“You want to get a little bit of momentum going in the state playoffs, and I think our guys did that tonight,” Wildcats coach Jerry Jensen said. “We just zeroed in. They got some size up front, so I think it took a series or two to adjust to that. Ray was able to find a hole a couple of times and sneak through there and that really set the tone.”
The win advances Archbishop Murphy to the state quarterfinals where the Wildcats will meet North Kitsap, who beat W.F. West 38-7 in its state opener.
Pimentel’s damage was done on just 14 carries while the back put on a dazzling display, carving up the Hawks defense using a rare blend of speed, balance and vision. Kyler Gordon made plays, too. The senior, who’s fielding multiple Division-I offers from high-profile schools, caught four passes for 145 yards, including a 60-yard TD reception.
“We got all our blocks down, I was able to make the right cuts and everything just worked out,” said Pimentel of his big night.
The Wildcats opened with a five-play, 62-yard scoring drive capped by a Pimentel 8-yard touchdown run up the middle to take a 7-0 lead less than one minute in.
River Ridge’s defense then forced back-to-back three-and-outs on the Wildcats’ next two drives, but the Hawks could only hold down Archbishop Murphy’s potent offensive attack down for so long.
The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their next six consecutive possessions before running the clock out to end the half. And Pimentel earned the starring role in what was Archbishop Murphy’s latest offensive show of force.
Pimentel followed his first score with a 9-yard touchdown run, and after a Rweha Munyagi interception, Gordon took a slant route 60 yards for a TD to give Murphy a 20-0 lead over River Ridge with 1:09 to play in the first quarter.
Wildcats defensive back Freddie Girault recorded the first of two first-half interceptions three plays into the Hawks’ next drive, and that led to an 8-yard touchdown pass from Victor Gabalis to Dillon Singh-Halpin, extending Archbishop Murphy’s lead to 26-0 early in the second quarter.
Pimentel then ripped off two highlight-reel runs during the next 6 1/2 minutes to push the Wildcats’ lead to 40-0 with 5:17 to play until halftime.
Pimentel’s third touchdown came on a 57-yard run up the middle. The back broke a pair of tackles before out-running the Hawks secondary. Moments later the senior dashed 75 yards down the left sideline for his fourth score of the half.
“We are going to lean on Ray,” Jensen said. “We are going to give him the ball as many times as he can take it. He’s got a great balance and great vision. He’s just a really good running back.”
Ben Hines capped Murphy’s dominant first half with a 7-yard touchdown run that put the Cats in front 47-0 with 3:38 until halftime.
Archbishop Murphy’s defense created four first-half turnovers, all interceptions off River Ridge quarterback Tomasi Manu, and the Wildcats yielded only 30 rushing yards on 17 attempts. Hines and defensive linemen Matt Keck, Martin Napeahi and J.P. Quinn plugged holes and left little daylight for River Ridge’s backs.
The Hawks broke through in the game’s final minute. Backup quarterback Jevon Brown took a carry 11 yards for a score to prevent a Wildcats shutout.
“We were hoping to get a morale booster,” said Pimentel on what the Wildcats were hoping to take away from their state first-round game. “We are trying to play the best games that we can play. It doesn’t really matter who our opponent is. We just want to be the best team that we can be, keep pushing and hopefully get that state championship.”