ATM defeated Granite Falls 66-6 last year and have outscored the Tigers 290-30 since 2010.
Granite Falls High is the latest football team to forfeit a game against Archbishop Murphy. The Tigers were slated to play the Wildcats on Friday.
This is the third consecutive conference team to forfeit to ATM. Like Sultan last week, Granite Falls cited safety concerns as reasoning for not playing. South Whidbey forfeited its Sept. 23 game against ATM due to having just 14 active players because of previous injuries and others dropping out.
ATM canceled practice Wednesday and instead held a press conference to respond to the forfeits. Players and assistant coaches stood behind head coach Jerry Jensen as he told the story of the 16 seniors who were 3-6 together as freshmen and have the goal of winning the school’s first state championship since 2003.
“We’re frustrated,” senior captain Anfernee Gurley said. The 2015 conference Player of the Year and Star Times selection helped the Wildcats advance to the Class 2A state semifinals last year, a first since 2011.
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“It’s hard to practice four days a week and not play on a Friday night,” he continued. “It’s hard to stay motivated as a group, but I think we’ve done pretty well.”
Jensen doesn’t yet know if any of ATM’s remaining three opponents will forfeit. He said he asked at a September conference meeting following South Whidbey’s decision to not play if the other schools would do the same and received no indication Sultan and Granite Falls would forfeit.
ATM hosts Olympic High School of East Bremerton on Oct. 21 in a nonleague game. Olympic athletic director Nate Andrews told the Kitsap Sun Wednesday he expects the Trojans to play.
“I honestly thought we’d play this game,” said Joey Johnson, Granite Falls athletic director. “I’m competitive like everybody else. You try, but at some point you have to consider the safety of the kids. That was the concern of the parents of these kids. The administration and the school district is also concerned about the safety of the kids.”
Johnson said ATM game film was viewed before players and parents ultimately made the decision to forfeit. The Wildcats, who have seven players on their roster who weigh 245 pounds or more, have played three games this season, winning by a combined score of 170-0.
ATM last played a competitive game against Granite Falls in 2009, winning 30-17. The Wildcats defeated the Tigers 66-6 last year and have outscored the Tigers 290-30 since 2010.
Class 2A Granite Falls (2-3, 1-1 Cascade Conference) opened its season with a 34-14 win against Shorewood, a Class 3A school.
ATM (5-0, 3-0) is one of two private schools in the Class 2A/1A Cascade Conference. The Wildcats have a smaller student enrollment, but under Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules, private schools can expand their athlete pool 50 miles in attracting the best to their schools.
“The WIAA does the best it can to make sure that (competitive balance) happens,” Johnson said. “But there’s not parity.”
The WIAA has a committee meeting this month to discuss balancing competition in high school football. The organization cannot make a scheduling change for this season.
Johnson expects Granite Falls to play the remaining three games on its schedule.
“This is kind of an anomaly,” said Mike Colbrese, WIAA executive director, last week of the forfeits. “But it’s one that causes us to pause and take a look at what can we do because everybody loses in a situation like that. Not only does Archbishop not get a couple ballgames but those schools don’t get ballgames. It’s important for kids to be able to participate.”
Jensen, who’s also ATM’s athletic director, doesn’t expect his school to be part of the Cascade Conference next season.
“Hopefully we enact change along the state level and the conference level that doesn’t allow teams to forfeit three days before the game,” he said. “Hopefully there’s new laws that have some accountability to these schools that are putting these kids’ season in jeopardy.”