Forfeits create ‘a challenge’ for Murphy players, coaches

With first one and then two Cascade Conference opponents dropping off the schedule, the Archbishop Murphy High School football team has tried to keep both focus and morale at a high level as it prepares for the rest of its season.

The problem is, no one knows at this point how many games that remaining season will be.

Decisions by South Whidbey and Sultan to forfeit upcoming games have left the Archbishop Murphy players “pretty disappointed,” said Wildcats head coach Jerry Jensen, who is also the Everett school’s athletic director. “They’ve worked hard to get to this point and now they’ve had two games taken away.

“All the other teams will have two more games where they’re getting game experience and being able to grow as a football team,” he said. “So now we have to find ways as coaches to challenge our players within our own setting to get that same growth. One thing I will say, we have a pretty resilient group of kids … and I have faith they’re going to do it. But it’s going to be a challenge.”

This year’s Archbishop Murphy team has emerged as one of the best in the state, regardless of classification. The Wildcats opened their season with non-conference wins of 73-0 against Issaquah and 59-0 vs. Bishop Blanchet before defeating rival King’s 38-0 in last week’s conference opener.

Archbishop Murphy, though, has evidently been a victim of its own success. Citing concerns about player safety — specifically, the Wildcats’ decided superiority in athleticism and roster size — South Whidbey and Sultan opted to forfeit games tonight and next Friday, respectively.

There is also a possibility that other conference teams will decide not to play Archbishop Murphy, though “I don’t foresee that happening,” Jensen said. “And if that does happen, I’d be very, very disappointed.”

The Wildcat players spent this week focusing on schoolwork and participating in conditioning drills, but Jensen said he expects his team to do some scrimmaging next week. The idea is to replicate game-like preparations and atmosphere so the team does not lag behind other top state contenders.

“If you look at other programs around the state,” Jensen said, “the Northwest Conference has several teams that are very competitive. Down south you have Tumwater and WF West and the other programs down there. Across the mountains you have Prosser and Ellensburg. Those guys will all be getting better the next few weeks, but I’m not sure I can say that we’ll be getting better the next two weeks.

“Thank goodness this isn’t the last two weeks of the season when we’d be trying to prepare for a really difficult crossover game with the Northwest Conference coming into districts,” he said.

Next week at practice, Jensen added, “we’ll get back to football and start preparing for the rest of the season.”

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