History was made Friday night on Waterman Field as South Whidbey football defeated Archbishop Murphy for the first time.
Trailing by one point with just seven seconds left in the game, South Whidbey’s play callers put a rally on the line.
The Falcons could have kicked the extra point and tied the game with hopes of winning in overtime. But on South Whidbey’s homecoming night, momentum had swung its way and the Falcons went for two. Miraculously, it worked, sending a filled grandstand into a frenzy.
Archbishop Murphy tried a couple of deep throws as the seconds ticked away, but both fell incomplete and time expired. Hearing the final whistle, South Whidbey’s students and even some parents rushed the field, surrounding the Falcon players.
“It’s unbelievable beating Archbishop Murphy for the first time,” said Falcon senior Nick Bennett, who caught the go-ahead two-point pass. “With all the alumni here seeing us beat that team for the first time. I’ll always remember this one.”
After a turnover-addled first half, the teams were tied at seven points apiece. South Whidbey managed its first-half score at the trailing seconds on a stalwart run by senior quarterback Nick French, who dragged defenders a few yards into the end zone before senior Cooper Nichols booted in the extra-point kick.
Out of the homecoming ceremony halftime, in which French took part, South Whidbey had to kick off to Archbishop Murphy. The Wildcats marched downfield on a nearly five-minute drive and scored. Wildcat quarterback Nolan Rogge punched in a 2-yard run, followed by kicker Mason Bailey’s extra point, for a 14-7 lead in the third quarter.
South Whidbey’s offense failed to get a first down and punted to its own 46-yard line on the next possession. The shortened field allowed Archbishop Murphy to score after a deep pass by Rogge to Ryan Dorney at the 1-yard line. Wildcat running back Taylor Gibson pounded in the short touchdown for a 21-7 lead with 3:06 left in the quarter.
The Falcons answered on the ensuing possession, putting together an 11-play, 47-yard touchdown drive. French threw a quick toss to senior Kale Reichersamer near the goal line who stretched out for the end zone pylon as he was tackled by two Wildcats. That goal brought the crowd to life with mere seconds left in the third quarter.
South Whidbey’s defense put Archbishop Murphy deep into its own territory. Falcon senior Nick Bennett recorded his second sack of the day, dropping Rogge at the Wildcats’ 15-yard line and forcing fourth down with 25 yards to convert.
Both teams traded turnovers on downs with their next possessions. South Whidbey’s defense stiffened on the next play, causing a turnover on downs when Archbishop Murphy failed to convert on fourth and short on its own 37-yard line with 2:42 remaining. The Falcons converted a fourth down on the power running of Kohl Hunter. A few plays later, South Whidbey was bailed out of an incomplete pass on third down by a roughing-the-passer penalty which spotted the Falcons on the 7-yard line.
French threw to Reichersamer who was tackled at the 2-yard line. South Whidbey called a timeout with 29 seconds left. The Falcons called a similar play, but the Wildcats were on Reichersamer for no gain. With seconds ticking away, French took the shotgun snap and ran in the score up the middle.
South Whidbey sent its kicking unit on the field for the extra-point attempt. Falcon junior Parker Collins took the snap, then the formation broke and several receivers ran into the end zone with Collins rolling out toward the Wildcats’ sideline. He threw the ball, wobbling in something that was definitely not a tight spiral, but Bennett bailed him out with a leaping catch and the two-point conversion, giving South Whidbey a 22-21 lead.
“Best flopping duck to win a game, I’ll take it,” Collins said.
Bennett added, “Parker just lobbed it, I was like ‘I gotta go get that.’ I went up and caught it. I don’t think I have any water in my body to start crying, but I wanted to start crying. It was amazing.”
The emotional, come-from-behind win sets up a winner-to-the-playoffs game with Whidbey Island rivals South Whidbey and Coupeville on Friday night at Coupeville. As 1A teams in the Cascade Conference, South Whidbey is playing for the second-place spot behind King’s. Coupeville will face King’s on Oct. 25.