Archbishop Murphy rally comes up short against Lakewood | Football
Early Wildcat turnover gives Cougars momentum in key Sky Division clash
Last updated 10/18/2019 at 11:16am
Archbishop Murphy didn’t come out with the urgency that coach Mark Leone was hoping the team would have against Lakewood.
That lack of urgency ultimately cost the Wildcats in a 35-27 loss to the Cougars in a Northwest Conference 2A Sky Division football game Friday, Oct. 11, at Lakewood High School.
The loss dropped Archbishop Murphy (1-2 in the league, 4-2 overall) into a tie for fourth place in the Sky Division with this week’s opponent Burlington-Edison (1-2, 1-5). The Wildcats host the Tigers at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11, at Archbishop Murphy High School’s Terry Ennis Stadium. Only the top three teams in the Sky Division receive a first-round playoff bye.
“We didn’t come out like we were ready to play a playoff game and that’s what it was,” Leone said.
Archbishop Murphy took a 6-0 lead in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Mason Mathis, but then a special teams mishap allowed Lakewood (2-1, 5-1) to seize the momentum.
The Wildcats fumbled a punt and the Cougars converted the turnover into a touchdown and a 7-6 lead in the second quarter. Quarterback Jack O’Hara threw a 6-yard pass to Morgan Stacey.
“I think that’s when the tide really turned,” Leone said. “Lakewood converted that into a touchdown. Kudos to them for executing. We were leading 6-0 and getting the ball back. We fumbled and then they took a 7-6 lead.”
Later in the period, O’Hara scored on a 51-yard run to extend the Lakewood lead to 14-6 at halftime. The Cougars then took a 21-6 advantage when O’Hara threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Carson Chrisman in the third period.
The Wildcats finally answered back when quarterback Victor Gabalis connected on a 9-yard TD pass to Josh McCarron to cut the deficit to 21-12.
In the fourth quarter, O’Hara scored on a 47-yard run to extend the Lakewood lead to 28-12. Gabalis again responded with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Joe Ennis and the Wildcats trailed 28-20. O’Hara ran six yards for his third and final rushing touchdown of the night to again give Lakewood a two-score cushion – 35-20.
Gabalis found Ennis – this time for an 8-yard touchdown – to close out the scoring. Archbishop Murphy’s ensuing onside kick was recovered by Lakewood, who ran out the clock for the victory.
Leone appreciated how Archbishop Murphy fought back in the second half.
“They played with a lot of effort and there’s no quit in them,” Leone said. “We’re really proud of that. There were points in that game when it would have been real easy to put our heads down and let it get out of hand. We made some good adjustments and continued to play hard. They didn’t run from the fight.”
Gabalis completed 11 of 26 passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Mathias rushed for 93 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown. Ennis caught five passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns and McCarron had five receptions for 45 yards and one touchdown.
O’Hara rushed for 173 yards on 20 carries and scored three TDs. Lakewood finished with 302 rushing yards.
“They fired off the ball better than we did,” Leone said. “Some of it was that we didn’t go to the right gaps. They out-executed us at the end of the day.”
The message Leone and his coaching staff stressed to the players was that they need to start off stronger.
“We talked about having more focus with what we’re doing,” Leone said. “We’ve got to come out and play quicker. We can’t wait until the game is going to start with the focus and discipline.
“I think this is a focused group that is determined to get better.”