Archbishop Murphy smacks Orcas Island

  • Aaron Coe<br>For the Enterprise
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:22am

EVERETT — Dennis Dahl knows a thing or two about coaching.

He’s been in the business for more than 30 years, dating back to when he and current Archbishop Thomas Murphy football coach Terry Ennis worked together at Stanwood High School in the early 1970s.

“He was the head wrestling coach,” said Dahl, his face building into a grin. “He didn’t know a thing about wrestling. He asked me, because I had wrestled at Central. … We had a lot of fun that year.”

Dahl didn’t see much wrong with Ennis’ football coaching abilities on Oct. 18, when top-ranked Archbishop Murphy bulldozed his No. 6 Orcas Island Vikings 40-7 in a Northwest A League game at Archbishop Murphy High School.

It was the Wildcats’ 19th consecutive victory since a 2002 season-opening loss to Tacoma Baptist. Dahl stopped short of predicting Archbishop Murphy’s second straight Class 1A title, but wasn’t surprised by Saturday’s lopsided score or the fact that the Wildcats won the 2002 championship in their second year of varsity competition.

“I knew the minute they hired him that by the time his freshmen became seniors, they were going to run that Wing-T and they were going to run it well,” he said.

Dahl was quick to point out that it’s not all Ennis. He’s got a few players capable of making his offense sing. Senior fullback Jevon Butler rushed for 214 yards on 24 carries, caught an 8-yard TD pass and intercepted two Orcas Island (5-1, 1-1) passes. Sophomore Stan Smith dazzled the spectators during a 42-yard TD run and finished with 119 yards rushing on only 11 attempts. Ben Waiss added 64 rushing yards and Doug VanderWel contributed 22 rushing yards and sacked the Vikings quarterback twice.

“They have such a great backfield,” said Dahl, whose team has been to the state playoffs in four of the last seven seasons. “No matter who’s carrying the football, you’ve got a good runner and a strong runner.”

Dahl loaded his 22 players on the bus hoping his team would play hard. Never mind winning or losing. He feels his team played as hard as it could despite becoming the latest victim of a team that has outscored opponents 349-84 this season. The Wildcats have dismantled a Class 3A team (Evergreen of Seattle), a Class 2A team (Omak) and five Class A opponents (Tacoma Baptist, Cascade Christian, King’s and La Conner) that have combined for 11 state playoff appearances since 2000.

If the Vikings can take anything away from the Oct. 18 game, it is that the 40 points Archbishop Murphy scored were the fewest any Wildcats’ opponent has allowed this season.

Though anyone within earshot of Ennis has bought into his one-game-at-a-time mantra, members of the No. 2-ranked Zillah football team seemingly expect big things from the Wildcats. They made the 180-mile trek to take in the team they could possibly face in the state title game.

“If they want to come and look that far ahead, then they can do that,” said Waiss, who helped Archbishop Murphy hold the Vikings to 117 yards of offense from his nose guard position. “We won’t go scout any of those guys out yet because we’ll just play them one game at a time. First we’ll get into the playoffs. Then we’ll look at those guys.”

True to Ennis’ teaching, Waiss had no idea who Archbishop Murphy plays next.

Orcas was certainly a team that concerned the Wildcats. After all, the Vikings won the first meeting between the two programs, 14-7, in 2001. Archbishop Murphy held on for a 22-19 victory at Orcas last season. At the start of Saturday’s game, it appeared Orcas Island was going to give the Wildcats their first real test of the season.

Hunter Easterling returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to Wildcats’ 35. Two straight completions gave the Vikings a promising first-and-goal at the 2.

The Wildcats stuffed Orcas Island’s four attempts at the end zone, and then drove 98 yards for their first of five consecutive first-half TD drives. Orcas Island ventured past midfield only three times after its initial possession. The Vikings, trailing 40-0, wriggled off the shutout hook when quarterback McLane Stone picked up a teammate’s fumble and ran 62 yards for a TD with 4:27 remaining.

Ennis said his team still has some things it needs to work on, but that he was pleased with the Wildcats’ effort.

“I think we saw some running backs that ran hard today,” Ennis said. “Jevon in particular broke a lot of tackles. All of our backs are doing a better job of not trying to dance around somebody and taking a direct path to the goal line.”

Nothing, it would seem, can put a stop to it.

Aaron Coe writes for The Herald in Everett.

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