EVERETT — For the last three weeks, Archbishop Murphy has had a singular focus, and it wasn’t a 2A state tournament berth on which the Wildcats were fixated.
Murphy began preparing for Sedro-Woolley the third week of October for its regular-season finale against the Cubs. After a week off last Friday, the Wildcats faced Sedro-Woolley again Friday night in the second of back-to-back matchups over the course of three game weeks.
In a 2A Week 10 playoff game with a state berth on the line, Murphy’s defense played like a unit well-versed in the Cubs’ offense.
Archbishop Murphy suffocated Sedro-Woolley’s attack, and the Wildcats earned a 23-6 home playoff win at Terry Ennis Stadium.
“It’s a big win, anytime you can beat a program like Sedro two times in a row, which is kind of odd,” Wildcats coach Mark Leone said. “We’re proud of our boys. We definitely got some things we got to clean up, but we advanced and now we got to look to do that again.”
The win sends Murphy (7-2) back to the state playoffs after being absent from the state round of 16 last season.
The Wildcats’ defense forced Sedro-Woolley to become one-dimensional on offense, as the Cubs’ rushing attack was virtually non-existent. Outside quarterback Kaden Plymale’s 15 rushing attempts for 32 yards, Sedro-Woolley running backs totaled just three carries. Instead, the Cubs leaned on the passing game. Plymale finished 22-for-38 for 188 yards and three interceptions, but after completed 10 of his first 12 passes, he was 12-for-26 with all three of the picks over the rest of the game.
“The way they rallied to the ball, and they just didn’t give up big plays,” said Leone, when asked what impressed him most about his defense’s performance. “One of our priorities was to try and make them go the length of the field and to sustain long drives, and I thought our defense did a really good job.”
The six points came two weeks removed from holding the Cubs to 14 points in Murphy’s 27-14 win over Sedro-Woolley to end the regular season.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ offense made just enough key plays and took advantage of strong field position.
Quarterback Victor Gabalis and running backs Josiah Santiago and Mason Mathis all scored rushing touchdowns.
Santiago ran for a game-high 72 yards on five carries, and Mathis and Gabalis both had 39 yards on 10 carries. Joe Ennis chipped in 71 total yards.
While Archbishop Murphy’s defense put together a dominating effort for the majority of the game, the unit looked vulnerable during Sedro-Woolley’s first two drives.
The Cubs opened with a 13-play drive that ended with a turnover on downs at Murphy’s 16-yard line. On Sedro-Woolley’s next possession, it took advantage of a short field and scored a touchdown with a six-play, 34-yard drive to take a 6-0 lead at 4:18 in the first quarter.
Archbishop Murphy shut out Sedro-Woolley for the remaining 40 minutes.
The Wildcats answered the Cubs’ scoring match with a touchdown of their own, using an eight-play drive that covered 71 yards and ended with a 15-yard touchdown run from Santiago.
An interception from Murphy defensive back Keyshon Rife gave the ball right back to the Wildcats, and three plays later a 1-yard Gabalis TD run gave Archbishop Murphy a 13-6 lead with 10:09 to play in the second.
The score held until early in the third quarter when kicker Anthony Veneziani extended the lead to 16-6 with a 27-yard field goal at 8:47 in the third. Mathis put the game away with a 2-yard touchdown run, giving the Wildcats a 23-6 lead with 8:44 to play in the fourth.
Santiago, Archbishop Murphy — The Wildcats largely picked away at the Cubs’ defense with short plays and methodical drives, but Santiago delivered some big runs on limited touches. He finished with a game-high 72 rushing yards and a touchdown and reeled off runs of 15, 20 and 21 yards.
Ennis, Archbishop Murphy — Ennis contributed 71 total yards of offense (24 rush, 47 receiving), and he was one of the key defensive players who helped shut down Sedro-Woolley’s passing game.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
The Wildcats managed to not only put themselves in a first-and-42 situation, they figured out a way to dig themselves out of it and score a touchdown. In an odd sequence of multiple personal foul penalties, the Wildcats moved from inside the Cubs’ 10-yard line back to near midfield. Murphy got closer with a Mathis 8-yard run. That was followed by a 15-yard run by Gabalis before Ennis caught a 17-yard pass to set up a fourth-and-short on Sedro-Woolley’s 2-yard line. On the next play, Mathis capped off the wild sequence with a 2-yard TD run up the middle.
Archbishop Murphy (7-2) will have to wait to learn its state first-round opponent next week, while the loss ended the season for Sedro-Woolley (7-3).