Archbishop Murphy prepares to defend state title | Football

Wildcats have mix of veterans, newcomers
By David Pan | Jul 21, 2017
Photo by: David Pan Archbishop Murphy running back Emmanuel Osuoha prepares to bounce off a blocking dummy.

The Archbishop Murphy football team is back at work.

The Wildcats, the defending 2A state champions, are moving forward with a mixture of returning veterans and promising newcomers.

Many key contributors to the school’s third state title are continuing their football careers in college. Lineman Abe Lucas and kicker Ryan Henderson are at Washington State. Running back/defensive back Anfernee Gurley found a new home at Eastern Washington and lineman Jackson Yost traveled across the country to Dartmouth University in New Hampshire.

With the departure of quarterback Connor Johnson, who ended up at Whitworth University, the Wildcats are looking to sophomore-to-be Victor Gabalis.

As a freshman, Gabalis saw limited playing time behind Johnson.

“He has all the tools to be a very good quarterback,” Archbishop Murphy coach Jerry Jensen said. “He needs to learn how to command the huddle and gain the respect of the upperclassmen. … He’s a sophomore. He needs time to learn it. It will come down the line.

“He’s going to be a really good quarterback. It’s just a matter of getting his reps.”

The Wildcats’ offense has a number of players who saw action last season and who are ready to assume more prominent roles. Senior Kyler Gordon, a first-team, all-league wide receiver and first-team, all-league defensive back, caught two touchdown passes and returned an interception for a score in Archbishop Murphy’s 56-14 victory over Liberty (Issaquah) in the 2A state championship game. He’ll be joined by senior Emmanuel Osuoha, a second-team, all-league running back and a first-team, linebacker, and Ray Pimentel.

“It’s a special group that is just as talented as we’ve ever been,” Jensen said of the team’s returning skill players. “That’s the group that we need to carry our team.”

The offensive and defense lines also have talented returners to build around with seniors Martin Napeahi, Kobe Moorhead and Matthew Keck. Napeahi earned first-team, offensive lineman honors, while Keck was a second-team selection.

Integrating the new linemen simply is a matter of time and reps, Jensen noted.

On special teams, the Wildcats will have a competition to take over for Henderson, who was the Special Teams Player of the Year.

One of the candidates is expected to be Ryan Henderson’s younger brother Max.

“That’s obviously a huge loss,” Jensen said. “We need to try and replace him. We definitely won’t be in the same situation.”

Last year’s team was experienced and the returning players know how to play at high level, Jensen said.

“We have some younger pieces to the puzzle,” he added. “The older kids need to learn a little patience and bring up the younger players.”

Archbishop Murphy remains in the Cascade Conference and is scheduled to host games with Sultan, Granite Falls and Cedarcrest, three teams that forfeited last year. The Wildcats, also host King’s, a team they played last season, and are on the road at Cedar Park Christian – Bothell, a school that forfeited.

“The communication among those schools (that forfeited) is that they are going to play,” Jensen said.

This is the second year of the schedule cycle and Jensen said that it was determined that it was not a good time to try and make changes since the season schedules have already been set.

At the conclusion of this schedule cycle, Archbishop Murphy plans to review its conference affiliation, Jensen said.

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