Thunderbirds tame Wildcats in state semifinals

Archbishop Murphy offense struggles in a 10-6 defeat
By David Pan | Dec 01, 2017
Photo by: David R Pan Archbishop Murphy’s Kyler Gordon is tackled by six Tumwater defenders during a 2A state semifinal game Saturday, Nov. 25, at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.

Archbishop Murphy’s hopes of winning a second straight state championship came to an end at the hands of a familiar foe.

Tumwater used a suffocating defense to edge the Wildcats 10-6 in a 2A semifinal football game Saturday, Nov. 25, at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.

Archbishop Murphy beat the Thunderbirds in the quarterfinals in 2016 and lost to them in the semifinals in 2015.

The Wildcats (11-2) came into Saturday’s contest averaging 43 points per game but were unable to generate any points on offense against a Tumwater defense that limited six opponents to one touchdown or less this season.

Senior linebacker Ben Hines stripped the ball from a Thunderbird running back and ran 8 yards for Archbishop Murphy’s only touchdown in the third quarter.

“Going in we knew that their front four was really good,” Archbishop Murphy coach Jerry Jensen said. “They played faster and harder than we did upfront today. When you can’t establish the run, it’s going to be a long day.”

The Wildcats ended up with -16 yards on the ground for the game. Archbishop Murphy’s passing attack didn’t fare much better, as sophomore quarterback Victor Gabalis completed 7 of 19 passes for 87 yards. Gabalis, under constant pressure all game, was sacked six times.

“The line of scrimmage wins football games,” Jensen said.

Jensen praised the Wildcats’ defense, which forced and recovered four fumbles.

“They played lights out tonight,” Jensen said. “They flew around. They created turnovers and they gave the offense every opportunity to go down and score and we just couldn’t put in it. It was a heck of a job by Tumwater. You’ve got to give them all the credit. We need to do a better job.”

Hines said the defense played hard.

“We did everything we could,” he said. “I thought we were playing great until we looked at the scoreboard and we’re down.”

After a scoreless first half, Tumwater (11-2) took a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by Connor Clark midway through the third quarter. The scoring drive was set up by Archbishop Murphy’s lone fumble of the game.

With the offense struggling and the Wildcats trailing 7-0, Hines decided he had to do something.

“I felt like the offense wasn’t putting up the numbers we usually do. So it’s time to put it into our hands,” Hines said. “I saw an opportunity and I went for it. … I took it (ball) out of his hands and ran it for a touchdown.”

Archbishop Murphy, however, missed the extra point, and still trailed 7-6. The Thunderbirds then extended their lead to 10-6 on the first play in the fourth quarter with a 32-yard field goal by Nathan Seaman.

Tumwater gave the Wildcats different looks on defense throughout the game.

“Honestly, that was the problem,” Hines said. “We didn’t know what was going on. They were shifting linemen all over the place. They were lining up four guys on one side and no one on the other side of the D-line, and we wouldn’t have time to adjust to it. … They just ran a really, really good blitz package.”

The Thunderbird offense generated 180 yards on the ground with running back Dylan Paine accounting for 112 yards on 30 carries.

Tumwater had a 13 to 2 edge in first downs and was 7 of 16 on third downs. Archbishop Murphy converted on only 2 of 12 third down attempts.

The Wildcats also struggled with penalties, finishing with seven for 72 yards.

On Archbishop Murphy’s second-to-last drive, a pass play that ended up on the Tumwater 33 was called back due to a holding call.

“We got that holding penalty that pushed us back to second-and-20 something,” Jensen said. “I thought we were starting to move the ball and having some success in that drive.”

While the Tumwater defense kept the Archbishop Murphy ground game in check, the Wildcats did have opportunities through the air that they just weren’t able to finish.

“We tried to get the ball into our playmakers’ hands a couple times,” Jensen said. “Either it’s a little too high, a little outside. … We just didn’t have it today.”

Tumwater faces Hockinson in the 2A championship game Saturday, Dec. 2, in the Tacoma Dome.

Jensen told his players, especially the seniors that he was proud of them. The seniors went 44-5 over their four years and won a state title in 2016.

“They’ve seen a lot in their time and they need to be proud of what they accomplished,” Jensen said. “This is going to sting for a while. When they look back on their season, hopefully they have some good memories.”

 

WILDCATS BEAT VIKINGS: Senior running backs Ray Pimentel rushed for 109 yards and one touchdown and Kyler Gordon finished with 92 yards and one touchdown to lead Archbishop Murphy to a 28-21 victory over North Kitsap in a 2A state quarterfinal game Friday, Nov. 17, at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Snohomish. The Wildcats trailed 13-7 at halftime but then scored a pair of TDs in the third quarter to take a 21-13 lead.

Quarterback Victor Gabalis threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rwehabura Munyagi and Dillon Singh Halpin returned a fumble 83 yards for a score. After North Kitsap tied the score at 21 early in the fourth quarter, Gordon scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown on a 54-yard touchdown run with 9:48 left in the fourth quarter. North Kitsap has the opportunity to answer, but the Vikings turned over the ball after coming up short on a four-and-1 with about two minutes remaining in the game.

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