The two teams lined up in alternating fashion, clasped hands and raised them to the sky for sportsmanship before the game.
EVERETT — It was about coming together for the greater good.
It was a moment bigger than football. It was a merging of two different communities, a feel-good moment that was staged but didn’t feel contrived.
Players from Garfield and Archbishop Murphy lined up on the midfield stripe in alternating fashion, interlocked hands and raised them to the sky to signal a unifying moment Thursday night during the national anthem.
It was a moment of understanding and clarity to kick off the high-school season.
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The remaining message was resounding — defending Class 2A state champion Archbishop Murphy is again a contender despite losses of star players such as Abraham Lucas, Anfernee Gurley and Ryan Henderson.
Down to the shiny new silver numbers on the jersey, the Wildcats, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, were clearly more polished in a 37-18 victory over Garfield, ranked No. 6 in 3A, in a nonleague season opener at home on Terry Ennis Field. The lasting image after the game was the sportsmanship that started off the game.
“We have an inner-city school coming up North, and I think that just shows in society, let’s just come together,” said Archbishop Murphy coach Jerry Jensen of hand-holding both coaches choreographed before the game. “You know let’s come together and work on the issues together and all be friends. Life’s too short to battle all the time.”
The showdown of two top teams in 2016 was spawned by a Twitter challenge from Garfield coach Joey Thomas to AMHS coach Jerry Jensen. There was no talking, just action as the Wildcats (1-0) forced Garfield into six turnovers.
“That’s a good opponent, we knew they were coming in here with some athletes and they showed that tonight,” Jensen said. “Neither team was probably as clean as they would like, but at the end of the day, I’m pretty proud of how our boys played tonight.”
The sportsmanship didn’t stop after the pregame joining of the hands. When AMHS do-everything star Kyler Gordon left the field with cramps and an apparent leg injury, several Garfield players ran over offer pats on the backside and well wishes.
Gordon was set to fly out right after Thursday’s game, heading to South Bend, Ind., for a recruiting trip to Notre Dame and the Irish’s home game against Temple on Saturday. Gordon finished with four catches for 47 yards, five rushes for 32 yards and an interception.
“It’s just two separate communities coming together,” Gordon said. “They’ve been through adversity. We’ve been through adversity. We’re just showing mutual respect to one another and locking arms.”