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Saxons reach semis

Ferris running back McKenzie Murphy rushed for 129 yards and three scores. Special to 
 (Young Kwak Special to / The Spokesman-Review)
Ferris running back McKenzie Murphy rushed for 129 yards and three scores. Special to (Young Kwak Special to / The Spokesman-Review)

Graham-Kapowsin was missing the main ingredient in its offense. It might not have mattered, though, given the way unbeaten Ferris was operating Saturday on its way to the State 4A football semifinals.

The Saxons (12-0) dominated on both offense and defense, handing the visiting Eagles (8-4) a 49-14 shellacking at Joe Albi Stadium to reach next week’s semis at home against last year’s state runner-up Bothell (12-0).

Graham-Kapowsin played without injured rushing leader Marcel Smith who sprained his ankle in last week’s win over South Kitsap, coach Eric Kurle said. Smith was not suited up in Spokane.

“That’s 2,600 yards of offense,” Kurle said, “but they (Ferris) are a great football team. I don’t know if it would have made a difference.”

Smith rushed for 24 touchdowns during the regular season. The Saxons put seven on the board in this game, four in the second quarter for a 35-0 lead that rendered the final outcome academic.

Ferris had 414 yards of total offense that included 119 on two Jeff Minnerly passes. The defense proved stingy, stifling 250-pound fullback Chris Ratteray and forcing the Eagles to abandon their running game.

Saxons coach Jim Sharkey said that going into the game he was more concerned with Ferris’ ability to handle Graham-Kapowsin’s sizeable line than he was about being hurt by Smith, had he played.

The line proved up to the task.

“The kids were a little sick of hearing about ‘Thunder’ and ‘Lightning’ (Ratteray and Smith) during the week and it gave them a rally cry,” he said.

When Minnerly lofted a 56-yard bomb midway through the first quarter that dropped over the shoulder and into the hands of streaking wide receiver Jared Karstetter for a quick score, the offense got rolling. It was one of two touchdowns for the WSU-bound Karstetter, who had 7 catches for 114 yards.

“He made a good decision to go inside his guy,” Minnerly said. “They didn’t have a safety there so I just threw it up and he ran under it.”

Late in the second quarter, slot Garrett Saike got a defender to bite, then took off and hauled in a similar pass for a 28-0 lead.

Minnerly wasn’t done. He threw his fourth TD of the half, to Aaron Roberts, with 45 seconds remaining.

Minnerly finished the game 14 for 20 for 242 yards, all but one of those completions coming in the first half.

“Our line gave me great protection and I had all day to throw,” Minnerly said.

Because of Graham-Kapowsin’s size, Minnerly said, “we wanted to throw-to-run as opposed to run-to-throw.”

Once that was established, the second half was nearly all run when McKenzie Murphy gained 105 of his game-high 129 yards and the final two of his three touchdowns.

“It wasn’t me finding holes,” Murphy said. “It was the line making holes, and I just took advantage of it.”

“We looked at their blitzes and tendencies and had to exploit them,” two-way 265-pound lineman Scott Wenke said. “Basically we had to come out and play.”

Ferris’ defensive line put the screws to Graham-Kapowsin’s running game. Ratteray managed just 15 yards on six carries and the Eagles gained 35 net for the game.

Wenke said he and his mates knew they had to play low and hard and get under the pads of an Eagles’ line that started two 300-pounders if they were to stop the run.

“I didn’t expect quite that dominance,” he said. “I was expecting them to make first downs and drives, but overall we’d hold them out.”

Graham-Kapowsin finished with 13 first downs, but nine came in the last quarter and one-half of the game.

The Eagles did score twice in the final 47 seconds of the third quarter.

Quarterback Jeff Logan went to the air – he finished with 155 yards – and sophomore Eli Shoemaker had a 13-yard gain on a reverse to set up the first score. Then, following a recovered onside kick, Shoemaker caught passes of 16 and 20 yards for the second score, cutting the deficit to 35-14.

But behind Murphy, Ferris roared back.

“I thought our kids executed well,” Sharkey said. “And our line adjusted quick and did a real nice job.”

The result is that Ferris gets to play again.