EVERETT — The Archbishop Thomas Murphy defense faced its stiffest challenge to date in last weekend’s non-conference clash against Cascade Christian.
The Cougars came into the game with an offense that had been averaging 51 points per game piloted by a quarterback who threw for 2,406 yards and 26 touchdowns last year.
The Wildcats were more than up for the test.
For the most part, their defense kept Cascade Christian senior quarterback Evan Bratz under wraps and almost shut the Cougars out, while their offense continued to roll in a 41-22 victory Sept. 27 at Archbishop Murphy High School.
Two of Cascade Christian’s touchdowns were scored on kickoff returns and the third touchdown came late in the fourth quarter against Archbishop Murphy’s reserves and well past the point when the game had been decided.
The focal point all week leading up to Saturday’s game was on containing Bratz.
“We just worked so hard to stop the pass,” said senior running back/defensive back Jevon Butler. “We stayed after practice, went over film and went over our key points.”
The game was a rematch of last year’s Class 1A state semifinals. The Wildcats prevailed 42-12 in that game en route to their first state championship.
“They’re a much better football team than last year. They’re hard hitting,” said Archbishop Murphy coach Terry Ennis. “We had all the respect in the world for their quarterback and we kept him a little bit contained and gave up some other things because we were trying to keep him contained.”
In what was probably an effort to take some of the pressure off of Bratz, Cascade Christian tried to establish its ground game, especially in the first half. The Cougars moved into Wildcat territory twice but weren’t able to move much beyond midfield.
“They ran the plays we expected them to run but they did try to establish the run a little bit more,” Ennis said. “It was pretty much what we expected from them.”
Ennis was satisfied with his defense’s effort but was a little disappointed to have allowed two kickoff return touchdowns.
“We didn’t have the continuity or the consistency that you would like,” Ennis said. “But that’s more due to playing a good team that was putting pressure on us … we thought we were fairly decent at covering kicks and we gave up 14 (points).”
Senior Brian Dahl took the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to give Cascade Christian a 7-0 lead. Archbishop Murphy closed the gap to 7-6 on a 42-yard touchdown run by senior running back Jevon Butler. The extra point was blocked.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats took a 14-7 lead on a 21-yard run by sophomore Stan Smith and a successful 2-point conversion pass from quarterback Kyle Wilkins to running back Doug VanderWel.
Butler scored on touchdown runs of 25 and 3 yards in the third quarter to boost the Archbishop Murphy advantage to 27-7. Dahl then ran back his second kickoff for a touchdown, rambling 86 yards.
Ennis was unable to pinpoint the problems without the benefit of videotape but suspected there were some special teams breakdowns.
“You’ve got to credit that kid too for showing a burst of speed and getting up the sidelines,” Ennis said. of Dahl.
Senior running back Ben Waiss scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and Butler had a 25-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The Cascade Christian offense finally got on the scoreboard when Bratz found Nick Moceri on a 20-yard scoring strike.
Though Ennis wasn’t happy that a couple of drives stalled, for the most part the offense adapted well to a tough defense.
“We saw a kind of defense that moved around a little differently than the defenses we’ve seen and (they were) much quicker than the defenses we’ve seen,” Ennis said.
Butler, who rushed for 186 yards, declared the Cougars Archbishop Murphy’s toughest opponent so far, which the Wildcats pretty much knew going in.
The defense limited Cascade Christian to 43 rushing yards and 120 yards passing.
“The game was hard, tough, a very physical game,” Butler said. “We worked our butts off all week and it kind of showed today.”