North Kitsap faces Archbishop Murphy tonight at Everett Memorial Stadium. It is the fourth time in five years they have matched up in the 2A state playoffs. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

North Kitsap faces Archbishop Murphy tonight at Everett Memorial Stadium. It is the fourth time in five years they have matched up in the 2A state playoffs. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

2A state playoffs preview: No. 9 North Kitsap at No. 8 Archbishop Murphy

The game is tonight at 7 p.m. at Everett Memorial Stadium

WHO: No. 9 North Kitsap (8-2, 6-0 Olympic League) at No. 8 Archbishop Murphy (7-3, 3-2 Northwest Conference Sky).

WHAT: 2A state playoffs, first round.

WHERE: Everett Memorial Stadium, Everett, 7 p.m.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: North Kitsap defeated Fife, 28-25, in the West Central District III round; Archbishop Murphy defeated Sedro-Wooley, 23-6, in the District 1/2 2A playoffs.

PRIOR MATCHUPS:

2015: Archbishop Murphy 27, North Kitsap 0.

2016: Archbishop Murphy 34, North Kitsap 0.

2017: Archbishop Murphy 28, North Kitsap 21.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

North Kitsap: Colton Bower, QB (1,248 passing yards, 1,077 rushing yards, 22 total touchdowns), Taylor Jackson, RB (445 rushing yards, five touchdowns in the past three games).

Archbishop Murphy: Victor Gabalis, QB (882 passing yards, 211 rushing yards, 20 total touchdowns), Joe Ennis, RB/WR (449 rushing yards, five touchdowns, 19 receptions, 313 yards, seven touchdowns).

BREAKDOWN: The 2017 game featured a senior-heavy North Kitsap team with a Division I running back in Dax Solis and one of the best offensive lines in the state, while Archbishop Murphy had future University of Washington defensive back Kyler Gordon and an outstanding running back in Ray Pimentel.

Things are different this time around — neither team is as star-studded as they were the last time they met and both teams are less experienced. Few players outside of Gabalis, who was the starting quarterback as a sophomore, were factors in that game. This will be a more physical, grind-it-out game featuring two sturdy defenses, and that should help the Vikings if they’re fully healthy on that side of the ball.

The Wildcats play in a tougher league as the Northwest Conference features highly-ranked Lynden and Lakewood, to which they lost both of their league games, while the Vikings went undefeated in the Olympic League, which placed one other team in the state tournament and did not have any teams in the final Associated Press top ten.

It’s never easy to pick against the hometown team, but with three consecutive losses in this matchup, the Vikings are the ones who have something to prove here. I think it will be much closer than others have predicted, but the Wildcats should still be favored, especially in what is still essentially a home game.

THE PICK: Archbishop Murphy, 27-17.

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