Wildcats slip into finals

TACOMA – Alex Ungs refused to fall victim to deception.

Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

Archbishop Murphy quarterback Mark Leone (2) gets a hug from teammate Jack Reeves after the Wildcats defeated Cashmere in a Class 2A semifinal game on Saturday.

Instead, he relied on instinct to make the play of his life.

Ungs, a senior defensive back for the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats, knocked down Cashmere’s potential game-winning two-point conversion pass on a fake extra-point kick in the closing minutes and Murphy held on to defeat the Bulldogs 14-13 Saturday in a Class 2A state quarterfinal football game at the Tacoma Dome.

“I knew they were gonna fake it,” the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Ungs said of Cashmere’s two-point try, which came with one minute, 41 seconds remaining in the game after Phillip Frost caught a 55-yard TD pass from quarterback Matt Caples to pull Cashmere within one point.

Murphy, which improved to 14-0 and won for the 53rd time in its past 54 games, plays Pullman (13-0) for the state title at 10 a.m. next Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. After winning Class 1A championships in 2002 and 2003, Murphy will chase its first 2A crown.

Plenty of Wildcats had heroic performances Saturday, including senior running backs Stan Smith (19 carries for 124 yards and one touchdown) and Shiloh Keo (11 for 111 and one TD). But Murphy’s defense ultimately made the difference against Cashmere (12-1), and Ungs supplied the most crucial stop.

“I just said in my head … ‘They’re not gonna get it on us,’” he said of the clutch defensive effort.

Ungs was right.

Caples, who was the holder as the Bulldogs lined up to kick the extra point, took the snap and rolled right. The Cashmere quarterback threw a pass to the right corner of the end zone, but Ungs leaped and batted down the ball near the sideline. After that, Keo recovered Cashmere’s last-chance onside kick and Murphy ran out the clock.

Cashmere coach Phil Zukowski said going for two was never a question. “There was no doubt at all. I felt that with the momentum we had going at that point, now is the time to get the win,” said Zukowski, who noticed that Murphy rushed all 11 defenders during Cashmere’s previous extra-point kick earlier in the fourth quarter.

“We were just sitting over (on the sideline) crossing our fingers,” Murphy coach Terry Ennis said of Cashmere’s 2-point attempt. “We didn’t know what was coming

Good thing Ungs did.

Cashmere trailed 14-0 at halftime but bounced back from four turnovers in three quarters to push Murphy to the brink with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Caples completed 15 of 27 passes for 261 yards and two TDs. Frost, who caught a 33-yard TD pass earlier in the fourth quarter, caught three passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs, who won the 1A state championship in 1984 and took second in 1985. Cashmere’s most recent semifinal appearance was 2002, when it lost 48-13 against Connell.

Caples entered the game with zero interceptions in 111 pass attempts, but the Wildcats picked off three of the Cashmere quarterback’s passes.

Ungs, Beau Allen and Henry Woods intercepted passes for Murphy, and linebackers Smith, Alex Burns and Michael Dean helped fuel a Wildcats defense that held Cashmere 43 points below its season average.

But Zukowski said it was Murphy’s linemen – players like junior Nick Snyder and sophomore Ryan Bourke – who were most disruptive.

“Their defensive line is fantastic – very strong, very mobile,” Zukowski said. “They’re the strongest defensive line we’ve seen all year.”

Cashmere’s defense was pretty good as well. The Bulldogs limited Murphy to five first downs and 231 yards rushing, nearly 150 below its average.

“They just were 11 good, physical people,” Murphy’s Ennis said. “We haven’t played a team that physical (this year), and that was the challenge.”

That challenge came when Cashmere scored on its last possession of the game, but Ungs and the Wildcats stepped up to secure the victory.

“Today,” Ennis said, “we weren’t going to let (Cashmere) take the wind out of our sails.”

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