Students decked head to toe in white continue to file into the stands as senior captains Ben Hines, Kyler Gordon, and Martin Napeahi walk to center field for the coin toss. They are accompanied by Roman Miller, the namesake of Archbishop Murphy’s baseball field and longest serving member of the board of trustees. He serves as an honorary captain as the Wildcat’s take on the Bishop Blanchet Braves for their second game of the season.
Winning the toss and deferring to the second half, the Archbishop Murphy captains head into the locker room to finish preparing for the game. The band continues to play tune after tune as parents and siblings find their seats. After a week full of extreme temperatures and bad air quality, the overcast weather is a welcome return to normal.
Once the team has returned to the field, prayer has been said and the anthem has been played, Friday Night Lights can finally begin.
Senior kicker Omar Rodas boots the ball to the 5 yard line–but the Braves kickoff team gains ground quickly, returning the ball all the way to the Wildcat 40 yard line. After no gain on first down and a fumble on second, they complete a 12 yard pass and convert on 3rd. They fail to gain any yards on the next four downs, and are forced to hand the ball over to the Wildcats.
Ray Pimentel starts the Wildcat’s 1st offensive series off strong with an 8 yard run; Ben Hines rumbles 11 yards through the Braves defense on 2nd down. Senior Kyler Gordon takes the ball next and moves the ball 31 yards closer to the endzone. There are two more plays with a gain of 3 yards each before Hines punches in a 13 yard touchdown. Archbishop Murphy is the first on the board. 6-0.
The Braves offense goes 3 and out on their next series, and so do the Wildcats. And then the Braves go 3 and out again.
Archbishop Murphy, however, does not. A beautiful run by Pimentel sets up Gordon for a 48 yard touchdown, and Rodas easily sinks the PAT 13-0.
Blanchet’s next series goes similarly to their last two–3 unsuccessful plays leads to the punt team taking the field. But a high snap keeps the ball on the Brave’s side and turns the ball over to the Wildcats.
A holding penalty pushes Archbishop Murphy back 10 yards on first, but QB Victor Gabalis and senior Rweha Munyagi make up for it easily with a 25 yard passing touchdown. 13-0.
The Braves are saved on 3rd down by a pass interference call after a loss of four on 1st and an incomplete pass on 2nd. The next set of downs they convert on 4th with a 7 yard pass, but their temporary luck runs out as a short gain on 1st down is followed by 3 incomplete passes.
Archbishop Murphy’s offense starts out at their own 19 and stay there after Gabalis’ pass on 1st down to Gordon is caught out of bounds. Pimentel gains 10 easily on the next play, and then another 16 a play later. After a quick 51 yard gain by Gordon, Pimentel takes the ball again and rushes 9 yards for a touchdown. Rodas sinks another PAT. 27-0.
Gordon intercepts the ball on the Brave’s first play, but a series of unfortunate events on the Wildcat offense sends the ball right back to Blanchet. The Brave’s have a rough start to their series, but convert on 4th down with a 30 yard pass. Two plays later, they manage to squeeze past the Wildcat defense and score. 27-7.
Attempting to catch up to Archbishop Murphy, Blanchet kicks onside. They can’t get to it fast enough however; senior Jeric Williams catches it off of a bounce and starts running. “I felt like I could’ve scored, but I just felt so slow,” Williams said post-game. He didn’t get the touchdown, but he set up Pimentel for a 10 yard one on the Cat’s first down. 34-7.
The Brave’s go 3 and out on their next, and final, series for the half.
The Wildcats had 6 more plays in the half, during which Pimentel ran for 20 yards and Gordon was involved in two questionable non-calls. Gabalis took a knee on the last play to end the half.
During halftime Head Coach Jerry Jensen said the coaches talked to the younger players, especially those involved in the kickoff, about going hard all game. “They were coming off their first win last week and just weren’t working as hard as they should’ve been.”
Pimentel manages to gain some ground on the Brave’s kickoff, returning the ball 29 yards to the Blanchet 49. Hines then runs yards 33 yards downfield, and after 3 more short gains, he finishes the drive with a 1 yard touchdown. 40-7.
Blanchet’s next drive is short lived–junior Dillon Singh-Halpin intercepts a pass and takes it to the house for a pick 6 on 3rd down. 47-7.
Sophomore Zach Sievers takes over for Rodas and comes in for the next kickoff, sending the ball to the Blanchet 35. The Brave’s go 3 and out, but punt the ball all the way to the Wildcat 1 yard line.
The Wildcats try to gain some short, quick yards on their first 2 downs, but are unsuccessful. On 3rd, Gabalis launches a 19 yard pass to Gordon, who then takes it to the end zone, making it a 99 yard touchdown. 54-7.
Sievers kicks off and the Braves manage one play before the clock runs out for the third quarter. The Brave’s start the 4th quarter with an incomplete pass and then a fumble after a 10 yard gain that they recover. They run the ball another 8 yards before their 2nd and 3rd downs fail to move them downfield at all. Freshman Josh McCarron ends their hopes of a 4th down conversion with a QB sack.
Archbishop Murphy’s next drive sees freshman Nick Rodabaugh, among other underclassmen, in to play. They make 1 first down, but fumble two plays later. The Brave’s recover.
Blanchet’s final drive seems to last forever as the clock runs down and they call timeout after timeout. They don’t make any progress throughout the drive.
Finally, the clock runs out. 54-7.
Despite the big win, Coach Jensen still told the boys in the huddle “We’ve got to get better.” When talked to after the game, he echoed the same thought, saying that the team needs to be cleaner.
Pimentel seemed to think the same. “We definitely need to work on kickoff,” he said, “No matter what they put out there we need to get downfield and be ready.” He also thinks the team needs to focus on keeping zones while on defense, especially in preparation for the big game this week.
That big game will be the Wildcat’s taking on King’s High School this Friday at 7pm at Terry Ennis Stadium.