2nd school to forfeit football game against Murphy: Sultan

For the second time in three days, a Cascade Conference school has chosen to forfeit an upcoming football game against league powerhouse Archbishop Murphy High School because of concerns about player safety.

On Thursday, Sultan announced it would cancel its Sept. 30 game against the Wildcats. That followed a similar decision by South Whidbey on Tuesday to drop a game scheduled for Friday night, with both schools citing significant disadvantages in team talent and roster sizes as the reasons for the forfeitures.

For Sultan, that Sept. 30 game could be the team’s first loss of the season. The Turks are 3-0 heading into tonight’s non-conference game against Cascade of Leavenworth.

“This was not an easy decision,” Sultan athletic director Scott Sifferman said. “Forfeiting games should be difficult … but we feel this is the right decision for this situation.

“When you look at our football team thus far (this season),” he went on, “we’re having some success, but we’re very thin. I think we’re a decent (Class) 1A football team, but we do not have a lot of depth. In the typical flow of any game, we’re rotating in a lot of young, undersized kids … and by putting some of those kids on the field, we don’t match up well (against Archbishop Murphy) at all.”

Archbishop Murphy boasts one of the state’s top teams of any classification despite being a Class 2A school. As a private Catholic school, Archbishop Murphy draws students from a large geographical area, and the school’s strong football program has attracted a number of top players.

Conference athletic directors and principals met last week and again this week to discuss growing concerns by the league’s other six teams — Cedar Park Christian-Bothell, Cedarcrest, Granite Falls, King’s, South Whidbey and Sultan — about the physical and numerical disparities they face against Archbishop Murphy.

Also, Sultan had a meeting of parents and school officials on Wednesday, “and the parents collectively told us they did not want us to play the game,” Sifferman said. If the game was to be played as scheduled, he added, “some parents told us, ‘I’m not going to let my kid be on the field.’”

The issue of forfeitures raises questions about the rest of Archbishop Murphy’s 2016 schedule. The 3-0 Wildcats — they have outscored their first three opponents by a combined score of 173-0 — have upcoming games against Granite Falls (Oct. 7), CPC-Bothell (Oct. 14), Olympic (Oct. 21, a non-conference game), and Cedarcrest (Oct. 28).

Cascade Conference president Jason Frederick, the Cedarcrest athletic director, said he believes Archbishop Murphy’s remaining league opponents are, for now, “locked into playing those games.”

But that could change in the coming weeks, he said, depending on “where the health of each team is and if they have low numbers (due to injuries) that week. … (Ultimately) it will come down to individual school decisions.”

In addition, Archbishop Murphy’s future in the Cascade Conference is in question. According to Frederick, “there has been discussion” of the Wildcats moving to a more competitive league, though “I would probably not have any (further) comment at this time.”

As discussions continued over the past several days, league officials tried to find some way to mitigate the negative effects of forfeitures. One option explored, Sifferman said, involved switching opponents with teams in other one-sided games on the same nights.

“That was something that was suggested by the (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) when these discussions began last week. … I wanted Archbishop Murphy to have every opportunity to play against competition that is going to help them improve, but that just didn’t happen,” Sifferman said.

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