Defense wins big games.
Add being able to run and pass effectively, and it all adds up to winning big games in big ways.
That’s what Archbishop Murphy did Friday night in a Class 2A first-round state tournament game. Using a well-rounded offensive attack and putting together another solid defensive performance, the Wildcats defeated the Black Hills Wolves 56-7 at Goddard Stadium.
Ranked No. 2 in the final Class 2A Associated Press poll, Archbishop Murphy (11-0) advanced to the quarterfinals for the sixth time in seven seasons and will face Centralia (9-2) this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Tumwater. The Wildcats had to forfeit their 2007 first-round victory because of an ineligible player.
Seven different players scored touchdowns Friday as the Wildcats racked up 457 total yards of offense, 291 of them on the ground.
Archbishop Murphy head coach Dave Ward praised his team’s offensive line and gave it a lot of credit for the running game’s success.
“The O-line did a nice job. Everybody picked someone up and stuck with them,” Ward said. “The backs were getting in the secondary and were making some nice cuts.”
Senior CJ Milburn rushed six times for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Alex Martinez (five carries, 71 yards) and sophomore Randy Gordon (eight carries, 70 yards) also each scored touchdowns for the Wildcats.
The quarterback duo of senior Jake Downs (5-for-6, 108 yards passing, two TDs) and sophomore Austin VanderWel (4-for-5, 166 yards passing) led Archbishop Murphy’s air attack.
“It’s been really nice to see the quarterbacks grow. They work together. They get along great. They complement each other,” Ward said of his quarterback duo.
Senior Kelso Wilkins caught four passes for 56 yards and senior JD Melton caught one pass, good enough for a 50-yard touchdown.
Having a quarterback tandem makes the Wildcats “real effective,” Downs said. He added that switching between himself, a right-hander, and VanderWel, a left-hander, causes problems for an opposition’s defense.
The Wildcats had no problem getting into the end zone, scoring on their first eight possessions. It wasn’t until the Wildcats put in their reserves that the Black Hills Wolves were able to stop Archbishop Murphy.
After jumping out to a 28-7 first half lead, the Wildcats didn’t stop there, putting up 28 in the second half. Not letting up in the second half has been something Archbishop Murphy has preached as the season has progressed.
“We really tried to get keep the pressure on coming out strong in the second half,” Milburn said. “In the beginning of the season, we let up.”
It wasn’t just about the offense for Archbishop Murphy. A week after holding Bellingham scoreless in a 2A cross-over game, the Wildcats allowed just one touchdown, a Mike Haupert pass to Qwaidon Frederick that just got over the hands of Wildcat cornerback Matt Huggins.
“We’re clicking. We’ve got to give the credit to the D-line,” Milburn said.
And that’s something Ward believes will lead his team to the semifinals and a shot to once again play in the Tacoma Dome.
“We’ve got to have solid defense that will get a couple of turnovers or will contain the other team’s offense. I think we’ve got that in these kids,” Ward said.
Cody Peterson led the Wolves with 20 carries for 99 yards. Haupert was 8-for-15 for 57 yards
Kevin Johnson writes for The Herald in Everett.