Top-ranked Archbishop Murphy falls to Pullman in 2A title game
Seattle Times staff reporter
TACOMA — J.T. Levenseller could have been the goat Saturday.
He could have let his two first-quarter turnovers be his undoing. He could have watched Pullman's state-title dreams evaporate.
Could have, but didn't.
Instead, the junior quarterback led the Greyhounds to a 28-24 victory over top-ranked Archbishop Murphy in a Class 2A championship-game thriller at the Tacoma Dome.
Entering the game, the second-ranked Greyhounds (14-0) had outscored opponents 213-0 in the first quarter. That changed quickly when Levenseller fumbled on the game's first play from scrimmage. Shiloh Keo took a handoff on the next play 23 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead only 24 seconds into the game.
Four plays later, Levenseller threw a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted. That resulted in a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
"I was nervous and even a little scared," Levenseller said. "I came out and had a bad fumble and a pick, but we just got back together and played hard."
Pullman not only played hard, but well. In a game pitting arguably two of the best 2A teams in the classification's nine-year history, the Greyhounds were the team that came up with more big plays, and Levenseller was part of the biggest.
With the Greyhounds trailing 24-21, Levenseller hit Aaron Pflugrad with a short pass near the sideline. The junior wide receiver took over from there, cutting back toward the middle of the field, shaking would-be tacklers all the way to the end zone.
That play put the Greyhounds up for good with 2:20 to play.
"It seemed like I was making the same move over and over," said Pflugrad, who scored on a 36-yard Levenseller pass earlier in the fourth quarter to give Pullman its first lead of the game
"Aaron played amazing," Levenseller said. "He wouldn't go down. He made some shifty moves and he's an amazing player."
Down by four with 2:13 to play, the top-ranked Wildcats (14-1) gave themselves a chance to score thanks to a 40-yard Keo run to open the drive. That run put Archbishop Murphy at the Pullman 29, but a holding call two plays later slowed the drive, and three plays after that, the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs.
Levenseller completed only 2 of 6 passes for 40 yards in the first half. In the second half, he was 6 for 9 for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
"Levie's a playmaker," said Pullman coach Bob Wollan, whose team won at Class 3A runner-up Prosser in Week 3. "He's a riverboat gambler type of guy, and you're going to have to live and die with those highs and lows. But he makes a lot more great decisions than negative ones."
Wollan gambled a bit himself in the first quarter, calling a fake punt on fourth-and-nine from his own 29. Chris Snyder connected with T.C. Peterson for 9 yards and first down, prolonging a drive that led to an J.C. Sherritt touchdown run.
In addition to two big pass plays, the Greyhounds also took advantage of a huge special-team's play. Archbishop Murphy had just gone ahead 17-7 on a Keo run late in the first half when Ashton Gant brought Pullman right back into the game with an 85-yard kickoff return.
"They're very talented," Archbishop Murphy coach Terry Ennis said. "They've got a guy who throws it well and they've got receivers who run really good routes and make plays. We gave up some big plays. That's a credit to them."
Senior running back Stan Smith led the Wildcats (13-1) with 146 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Keo also went over the 100-yard mark, finishing with 127 yards and two scores on 12 carries.
AM — Fritsch 30 FG
Pull — J.C. Sherritt 4 run (Logan Rubenthaler kick)
AM — Keo 13 run (Fritsch kick)
Pull — Ashton Grant 85 kick return (Rubenthaler kick)
Pull — Aaron Pflugrad 36 pass from J.T. Levenseller (Rubenthaler kick)
AM — Stan Smith 6 run (Fritsch kick)
Pull — Pflugrad 35 pass from Levenseller (Rubenthaler kick)
|Time of Possession||28:31||26:21|
Passing — Archbishop Murphy, Leone 2-3-0-30, Keo 1-4-0-(minus-14). Pullman, Levenseller 8-15-1-209, Chris Snyder 1-1-0-9.
Receiving — Archbishop Murphy, Keo 1-11, Burns 1-19, Joey Duncan 1-(-14). Pullman, Aaron Pflugard 3-106, Ashton Grant 4-87, T.C. Peterson 1-9, Joel Turtle 1-16.
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