Wildcats work hard for 28-0 win

  • Charlie Laughtland<br>Enterprise writer
  • Friday, February 29, 2008 11:33am

SHORELINE — The last time the Archbishop Thomas Murphy football team was forced to expend this much effort, there was a trophy on the line.

King’s gave the unbeaten Wildcats by far their stiffest challenge since last year’s Class 1A title game, but it wasn’t nearly enough to derail the two-time state champions.

Archbishop Murphy blanked the Knights 28-0 in a pivotal Cascade Conference matchup Oct. 8 at Woolsey Stadium to extend its three-year win streak to 32 games and assume sole possession of first place in the new seven-team league.

It was the second shutout in three weeks for an ATM defense that has allowed just 35 points in six games this season. The Wildcats (3-0 league, 6-0 overall) limited King’s to 91 total yards and three first downs, two of which came on the game’s final drive.

“Since our offense is so productive it (overshadows) our defense,” Wildcats quarterback Kyle Wilkins said. “But if you look at our defense, we’ve been keeping teams to low scores.”

King’s (2-1, 3-2) went three-and-out on five of its first six series and finished the game 0-for-9 on third down. The Wildcats gave up just three plays for more than seven yards and held the Knights to negative yardage in the second half until the last 1:28.

“They do a lot of slanting and shifting at the snap. It’s hard to get good read on their D,” King’s coach Jim Shapiro said. “It’s kind of a guessing game. You guess right one time and guess wrong the rest.”

The Knights atoned for their offensive struggles by containing the high-powered ATM running game for extended periods. King’s forced a season-high six punts by the Wildcats and became the first team to hold Archbishop Murphy under 40 points this season.

“They came out here and just flew to the football. Every time, every play,” Wilkins said. “They had a lot more team speed and hitting than we’ve seen. They’re a great team and they came out and gave us something we haven’t seen before.”

Wilkins engineered three scoring drives for the Wildcats and rushed for 72 yards on five carries before leaving in the third quarter due to what he diagnosed as a slight knee sprain.

Facing third-and-10 on Archbishop Murphy’s second possession, Wilkins faked a handoff and sprinted to the sideline for a 41-yard touchdown run at the 2:54 mark of the first quarter.

Midway through the second quarter senior tailback Craig Duncan charged up the middle untouched for a 24-yard TD run to cap a five-play drive that took 1:11.

The Wildcats needed just 40 seconds to march 69 yards and stretch their lead to 21-0 at the end of the second quarter. After three runs by three different ball carriers, Wilkins lofted his only pass of the game to junior split end Alex Ungs for a 41-yard TD reception.

“When your offense isn’t producing, they’re going to have the ball more,” Shapiro said. “They’re a big-play football team and they got a couple on us.”

ATM coach Terry Ennis emphasized the significance of his team’s final defensive stop and subsequent score with just under a minute to go before halftime.

“It’s tough going in 14-0 because if they get a touchdown they’re back in it,” he said. “Twenty-one really gives you a cushion. The kids got the ball back and executed. That piece of the game really reflected what we’ve been practicing. There were other times when I don’t think it did.”

Like the start of the second half, when three of Archbishop Murphy’s first four possessions resulted in punts.

“We didn’t stop ourselves They stopped us from doing things. A lot of credit goes to them,” Ennis said.

“We got some big plays, but we didn’t move the ball with the consistency that we’d like. We want to be a first down team instead of trying to get a big chunk once in a while.”

Junior running back Shiloh Keo’s 22-yard burst with eight seconds remaining in the third quarter was ATM’s only touchdown of the second half. Another drive fizzled inside the King’s 10-yard line.

The Wildcats rushed for a season-low 286 yards, led by Stan Smith’s 72 yards on 14 carries. Keo and Duncan each contributed 58 yards to go with their touchdowns.

“They played our schemes well and came up and tackled as a team,” Wilkins said. “They made sure tackles. We had some one-on-ones and they won it sometimes.”

Archbishop Murphy will finish out October against three teams with a combined 7-11 record before closing the regular season against Lakewood in a game that could potentially decide the Cascade Conference champion.

“The last games are always the hardest,” Wilkins said. “That’s when it shows who the good teams are. Teams get better. You’re not going to see the same team Week 1 that you see Week 10.”

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