South Whidbey forfeiting football game to Archbishop Murphy

A shortage of players and a decided disadvantage in physical talent have led South Whidbey High School to forfeit its scheduled Friday night football game against Archbishop Murphy.

In the past several days other Cascade Conference schools have evidently considered doing the same.

According to King’s football coach Jim Shapiro, a league meeting was held last Thursday to discuss concerns about player safety and competitive mismatches for the conference’s other six teams in games against Archbishop Murphy.

“What I know is that there are safety concerns from teams in our league around playing Archbishop Murphy, mostly due to their athleticism and the number of athletes they have there,” said Shapiro, who did not attend the meeting. “They are bigger, faster and stronger compared to the other teams in our league.”

Archbishop Murphy’s abundance of talent was evident in the season opener when it built a 73-0 halftime lead (the eventual final score) against Issaquah, a member of the Class 4A KingCo. The Wildcats, the co-leaders in the recent Associated Press Class 2A state poll with Tumwater, defeated Blanchet of the Class 3A/4A Metro League in their second game 59-0, and King’s in last week’s conference opener 38-0.

A few hours after last Thursday’s meeting, Shapiro said his players took a play-or-forfeit vote for their Friday game against Archbishop Murphy.

“We decided we wanted to go out, compete and do our best,” Shapiro said. “We also didn’t want to short-change Archbishop Murphy from the competition, so we chose to play.

“But to be honest, I was concerned (before the game),” he said. “When you have athletic 300-pound linemen and all-state running backs and linebackers across the board. … We have a good team, but I was concerned about the strength and speed of (the Archbishop Murphy) athletes.”

Those same concerns led to South Whidbey’s decision to forfeit this week’s game. Another factor, the Falcons have just 14 active players because of injuries and players dropping out.

“With the overwhelming physical disadvantage we’d have going into (a game against) Archbishop Murphy, they would not get anything out of it and we would not get anything out of it,” South Whidbey athletic director Paul Lagerstedt said. “It just didn’t make sense to play the game.”

The Falcons likely will have to determine each week if they can field a competitive team for the remaining games on their schedule, he added.

“We’re in conversation with our league,” Lagerstedt said. “We’re currently working on plans regarding our low numbers going forward. But our kids want to play and our coaches want to play. It’s a tough thing. We have a bunch of competitors and they want to play.”

Lagerstedt declined to comment on discussions about future games involving Archbishop Murphy, a private Catholic school with a fine football tradition, and the league’s remaining four teams — Cedar Park Christian-Bothell, Cedarcrest, Granite Falls and Sultan. Likewise, Archbishop Murphy football coach and athletic director Jerry Jensen declined comment, referring all questions to league president Jason Frederick, the Cedarcrest athletic director.

Frederick declined comment other than to say the conference’s athletic directors planned to meet Wednesday and the issue would be discussed.

Several other football coaches and athletic directors in the conference either declined to comment or did not return phone messages.

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