The Final Chapter

The clock is winding down. 7…6…5. On the sideline, there’s still a small sliver of hope that the Wildcats offense can pull off the impossible on this final play. 4…3. Sophomore quarterback Victor Gabalis snaps the ball. He launches it into the air…and it hits the field, uncaught. The Thunderbirds rush the field from their sideline, and just like that, the 2017 season, and, for some, four years of high school football comes to a close.

Over the past three years, the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats have faced the Tumwater Thunderbirds in the state semi-finals three times. In 2015, the last year semi-final games were played at the Tacoma Dome, the Thunderbirds held on to defeat the Wildcats 24-21. Last year, the Wildcats dominated the T-Birds, winning 48-10 and going on to win the state championship. This past Saturday, in their closest game of the season, AMHS fell to Tumwater 10-6.

For some, there are still a few years ahead. Time to grow and learn from the mistakes of this game. Maybe come back and beat Tumwater next year. But for the eleven seniors on this year’s roster, and the several others cheering on the team from the stands, Saturday marked the final chapter of Wildcat football.

This season, however, should be defined by so much more than how it ended. After losing several key players in last year’s graduating class, the Wildcats adapted to the players and skill sets they still had, finishing the season 1st in Conference and District, and 3rd in state for 2A.

The class of 2018 had an amazing season. Running back Ray Pimentel finished the season with over 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. Captain Ben Hines had 6 rushing touchdowns on offense, 93 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 defensive touchdown. Kyler Gordon, also a captain, had 1,616 all-purpose yards along with 5 interceptions across ten games. Rweha Munyagi, in his first and only season with the Wildcats, had 329 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. Kicker Omar Rodas made 2/3 field goals, 61 PATs, and kicked over 3,000 yards on kickoff this season.

In terms of future potential, the Wildcats also look good. Sophomore quarterback Victor Gabalis passed for 1,578 yards and completed 20 passing touchdowns, while only throwing 4 interceptions. Junior corner back and wide receiver Dillon Singh-Halpin had 325 receiving yards and 6 touchdown receptions. Defensively, the Cats also have outside linebacker Luke Riojas for one more year; this season he had 49 total tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 3 fumble recoveries.

The end of this season will sting for a bit. No one ever likes to go out on a loss. But that doesn’t mean this wasn’t a great season. To the seniors, don’t let how it ended define how you remember the rest of these 4 years. Be forever proud to be a Wildcat.

 

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Player Profile: Matt Welter

Senior tennis superstar Matt Welter starts his warm ups before each match by listening to “I Am A God” by Kanye West. Although it may seem silly, obviously it works. Matt’s record so far this season is 3-2, and his 2 losses have been against the best players in the league.

When he’s on the court however, his record doesn’t matter to him. “I’m always analyzing the previous play and my opponent so I can make my next shot be a winner,” Matt said.  To him, “it’s all about strategy.”

During this past off season, Matt prepared by playing year round for the Mill Tennis Club at the champs level. He also played in USTA champs tournaments, where he competed against some of the best players in the state and even some from across the country. ‘

As a singles player, Matt enjoys the fact that he “has no one to blame or praise except for [himself].” This season, he hopes to take 1st or 2nd in districts and qualify for state. If he makes it to state, he wants to be “very competitive and finish in the top 4.”

Matt Welter and the rest of the Wildcat tennis team take on South Whidbey today (Thursday, 9/28), so wish them luck!

Player Profile: Gabi Koch

In a district game against Liberty High School during the 2016 season, Wildcat’s assistant soccer coach Mike Boswell turned to Gabi Koch and said two words: hammer down. “I knew exactly what he meant,” Koch remembered, “That’s my absolute favorite soccer memory hands down.”

This season, Koch, a junior, is a captain hoping to get her team back to the same place they were at when last season concluded by leading through example. “This season I want to help my teammates on and off the field so that we can get right back to the final four of the state tournament,” Koch said.

Koch started playing soccer when she was only 5 years old, but it didn’t become her main sport until she was 8. Now, along with playing for the Archbishop Murphy varsity team, she plays for the Greater Seattle Surf team in her age division. For both teams, she plays center attacking midfielder her “absolute favorite position.”

Koch’s motivation for continuing to better her game is truly inspiring. “My biggest motivator would be my close family friend Jake Eastwood,” answered Koch. At age 13, Jake was forced to have one of his legs amputated due to an osteosarcoma. “He’s still one of the most athletic and uplifting people I know,” Koch added, “Knowing him and his story will always inspire me.”

Watch Gabi Koch take the field with the Wildcats at home this season at Terry Ennis Stadium.

AMHS vs Blanchet

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.

 

 

A Championship Weekend 

The sun continues to set over the horizon as the team is presented with their trophy for the third year in a row. Everyone has been in the heat for hours, but no one cares; the smiles on the player’s faces, the energy of all the students, it all makes it worth it. Who cares about sunburnt cheeks and growling stomachs when your school’s soccer team has just one it’s third consecutive state title? 

This season, even more than the past two, has been one for the AMHS boys soccer record books. And Saturday was the perfect end to the season. 

After a slow start Friday evening during the semi-final game against Cedarcrest, junior midfielder Sam Johnson was happy to start things off with a bang in the championship. “To get things started in such a big game gave us all the momentum. Throughout the entire state tournament, we’ve scored first, and in the semi-final that didn’t happen, so it was good to get back to our style of play,” he said. His goal came within the first 3 minutes after kickoff, a beauty from inside the right corner of the box. 

The next goal came shortly after from senior Jensen Crisler. What everyone thought was going to be a close game, was already looking like it could be a blowout. 

Goals continued to be made minutes after each other; Matt Williams, the Wildcat’s leading scorer, netted two and Crisler added another before half. 5-0 at halftime in a championship game? That wasn’t what anyone was expecting. 

The second half continued in similar fashion; Williams, Crisler, and Diego Rios all added goals to the scoreboard for the Wildcats. Every single rostered player stepped on the field, and at the end of the game, Coach Bartley returned all his starters to the field to finish their season together. 

That was the beauty of Saturday’s game. Seeing the core group of players who have grown together over the past 3 years finish their careers at Murphy, seeing the new talent that the team has for the upcoming seasons, and seeing all of us, as an Archbishop Murphy family, celebrating with each other. 

“It’s been a really awesome experience getting to play alongside the guys I did for the past few seasons and getting to lift the trophy with them one last time,” Williams, who was one of the team’s three captains this year, commented. For him, yesterday marked the last time he’ll play competitive soccer, as he does not plan to continue playing in college. “It’s still a bitter pill to swallow, but I don’t think I’d want to end my career any differently,” he told me. 

After this championship weekend, other players are also looking towards the future. Even though we have a ton of seniors leaving, I still have 100% confidence that we will be state contenders next year,” sophomore goal keeper Daniel Mycroft believes. Johnson, one of next year’s captains, however, knows that next year will be a whole new team. “It’s gonna be on myself and the other upperclassmen to bring the younger guys up to speed,” he said. 

There’s no doubt next year will be different. But for now, basking in the glory of 3 state titles is enough to focus on. 

Wildcat Soccer Team tops Greyhounds in 1st Round of State

On a gray afternoon, the Wildcat boy’s soccer team took on the Grandview Greyhounds for the first round of the 2A state tournament. Parents, siblings back from college, and classmates packed the stands in what turned out to be a typical AMHS boy’s soccer game for this year: a blowout. Every player on the roster received playing time, and the Wildcats won the game 6-1.

The first goal for the Wildcats came from junior Sam Johnson off the right side of the field, 6 minutes into the game. This was quickly followed by a goal from Isaac Feeney, also  a junior, in the 11th minute. The only other action in the first half came in the form of 2 yellow cards; one for a Greyhound and one for senior Mitchell Lovell.

The second half provided more action.

Only a minute after kickoff, senior Chase Whittaker volleyed in a beautiful goal from the top of the D-ring. In similar fashion to the first half, 5 minutes later (46′) Matt Williams (sr) bypassed 2 defenders to add one more to the scoreboard. 4-0. The next 2 goals came from Grandview, however only 1 of those goals was for their team. In the 52nd minute, Williams took another ball up top to the Greyhounds’ goal and, after shooting it, a Grandview player helped finish it into the goal. The Greyhounds did put one of their own in the AMHS net though in minute 52 after a free kick and some confusion in the box, keeping it from being another Wildcat shutout. The final goal of the game was an absolute laser by Feeney from the 20 yard line to the bottom left corner of the goal.

With a 6-1 win, the Wildcats advance to the 2A State Quarter-Finals for the 3rd year in a row.

The Wildcats are currently undefeated and have a goals for to goals against ratio of 18 to 1. That’s phenomenal, in case you were wondering.

 

Beautiful Day for Baseball 

Parents, grandparents, and students alike filled the small section of bleachers at Roman Miller Field Friday afternoon as the Wildcats took on the Sultan Turks. Over the loud speaker boomed the steady voice of history teacher Tyler McLaughlin. As other spring sports practices ended, the stands filled more. It was a beautiful afternoon for baseball. 

Senior Travis Coop took the mound as the starting pitcher for the Wildcats. He, and the rest of his team, were sporting their brand new red jerseys. The Sultan Turks prepped for their turn to bat. 

I could list every hit and run of this game, but that would 1) take too long and 2) be pretty pointless. So instead I’m going to focus on a short recap of the 3rd inning, which was, in my opinion, the most exciting. 

During the top of the inning senior short stop and Seattle University commit Connor O’Brien had a very well executed double play, knocking out runners heading to 1st and 2nd, and sending the Turks off the field. 

Josh Madison (sr), O’Brien, Brandon King (so), Gabe Feliciano (jr) and one more player each added a run for the Wildcats during the 3rd inning. 

If you’re planning on coming out to watch some AMHS baseball, I suggest getting to the field early. And if you’re not planning on going to a baseball game, you should change your plans.