The Wildcats made the two-and-a-half-hour drive south to Tumwater, where they ran into a tall, physical Thunderbirds defense that shut them out in a 21-0 2A state quarterfinals game at Tumwater District Stadium.
"You just look at how tall they are. How big they are. How active they are with their feet," said Archbishop Murphy coach Mike Pluschke. "Not only are (the Thunderbirds) playing at the top level they could be playing right now, and (then) we caught them in a home game situation where we spent two-and-a-half hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic."
When Murphy finally arrived at the stadium at 5:15, they were greeted by junior running back Christian Cummings who ran 19 times for 139 yards and a defense that held its potent rushing attack to 174 yards.
It didn't help when senior Wildcats' running back Hans VanderWel was injured on the first play of the game after an 11-yard run.
"First play of the game (he got a) broken collarbone, or dislocated," Pluschke said. "We're not sure what the verdict is. We just knew he was done right away. It's a huge, huge loss right off the bat in the game."
That left the bulk of the running game to Alex Galgano. The senior ran the ball 26 times for 142 yards.
"Alex did what he just does," Pluschke said. "He just runs so hard. I'm so sad to see that kid's season and career end. There's not a lot like Alex Galgano."
Galgano, who also completed the only pass of the game for Murphy for 29 yards on a halfback pass, said he was going to run hard as long as he was asked to until the last second of his final high school game while trying to get Murphy back in it.
"It's never over till the clock hits zero in the fourth quarter," Galgano said. "I always thought we had a shot. It's just hard. We put so much into it. We didn't think we were going to get this far. It's been a (heck) of a ride."
Tumwater's offense came alive in the second quarter, when quarterback Jayden Croft hit Andrew Brown for a 36-yard touchdown pass. Croft hit Brown for another touchdown, this time a 25-yarder, later in the quarter.
Croft finished five-of-nine for 85 yards with the two touchdowns and an interception by the Wildcats' Conner Longoria.
The Murphy offense had trouble getting anything going against a tough Thunderbirds' defense, and when it did get rolling, the Wildcats turned the ball over.
Archbishop Murphy fumbled the ball three times, and lost possession each time.
"Every time we seemed to get a little momentum we shot ourselves in the foot with either a missed assignment or an unlucky situation," Pluschke said.
Ricky Gordon, another senior running back for Archbishop Murphy, also limped off the field with a leg injury. He continued to play, rushing the ball seven times for 23 yards.
"I really have to give it to Ricky though. He was hurt," Galgano said. "I just don't have words for it."
Murphy's best chance for points came on a field goal attempt as the first half ended. With two seconds left, the Wildcats missed a 36-yard attempt and went into halftime trailing 14-0.
That was the score most of the way, until the Tumwater defense forced its third fumble when the Wildcats were desperately trying to get something going on offense. Korye Trejo grabbed the ball and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown. It was the Thunderbirds' defense's 58th point that it's scored this season, breaking a school record.
"That's a good football team," Pluschke said. "Up front, they physically handled what we were doing. I think that's the first time in a long time that we've had that much trouble up front."
The loss ended a wild season for Murphy, that saw the Wildcats with two losses and as many coaching changes by week five of the season. Galgano said that regardless of what happened on and off the field, the pride of the Wildcats made them keep fighting on.
"We're Murphy. That's what we do," Galgano said. "It's a deeply-rooted tradition, no matter who's coaching. Just the players are great. The coaches are great. The community just bands around the team. We know how to win games. So it's nothing new."
Galgano envisioned a pretty sad bus ride back, with less traffic, and lots of team bonding on the final road trip of the 2012 Murphy season.
"It's probably going to be a lot of singing," Galgano said. "I might start crying. I'm not that emotional I don't like crying but it's probably going to happen. There are going to be few dry eyes on the bus."
At Tumwater High School
Archbishop Murphy 0 0 0 0 – 0
Tumwater 0 14 0 7 – 21
T--Andrew Brown 36 pass from Jayden Croft (Elijah Hill kick)
T--–Brown 25 pass from Croft (Hill kick)
T--Korye Trejo 20 yard fumble return (Hill kick)
Records–Archbishop Murphy 8-3 overall. Tumwater 11-1.
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