Daede Murphy never expected he would be taking snaps at quarterback in a first-round CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoff game Friday night. But then again, this Paso Robles team has come to expect the unexpected.
Primarily a wide receiver all season, the senior was forced into action late in the game against Le Verne’s Damien High School when second-string quarterback Reese Brumley went down with an injury and third-string quarterback Zach Hanson proved ineffective.
“It was crazy. I was nervous at first, but then I just knew that my team has my back, I got theirs and we are just going to roll,” Murphy said.
Paso Robles tried to mount a comeback in the second half and made things interesting, but Murphy wasn’t able to bring the Bearcats back — Damien went on to win 45-28 and advance to the second round — but he left an impression on the fans and his head coach.
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“He is a jack of all trades,” interim head coach J.R. Reynolds said. “We had him in the backfield running the ball early in the game. He’s a smart kid. He works his butt off, and he knows what’s going on everywhere on the field. In an emergency, we go with him, and I couldn’t be more proud of the way he stepped up in the second half.”
Murphy and senior running back Julian Madrigal led the Bearcats on three touchdown drives late in the second half. The second drive featured the first pass completion of Murphy’s high school career, a tipped pass that fell into the hands of senior wide receiver Marshall Weisner. That was followed with a 12-yard Madrigal touchdown run to cut the Damien lead to 35-21 with 8:28 to play.
But Paso failed to recover an onside kick, leaving the door open for Damien senior quarterback Warren Bryan, who had a big night. Bryan’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Mikey McCauley on the ensuing drive, his fifth touchdown pass in the game, put the win out of reach for Paso Robles.
The Bearcats did have plenty of chances to score in the first half, but a pair of missed field goals and a fumble in the red zone led to a 21-7 halftime lead for Damien.
Two touchdown passes by Bryan to open the second half opened the floodgates. Bryan finished the game with 323 passing yards and a spectacular 50-yard completion on third-and-23 that broke the Bearcats’ hearts and led to a touchdown that made it 14-7 Damien in the first half.
“We had an opportunity at the end if we get the onside (kick),” Reynolds said. “That just shows the character of this group of young men. I am so proud of the way they have improved as we have gone on this year.”
When asked if he would try to trade in his interim status and apply for the head coaching job next season, Reynolds said this: “Bearcat football is my family, and I will be here if they want me.”
Murphy finished the game with seven carries for 62 yards rushing and a touchdown, one catch for 15 yards and 1-for-1 for 17 yards passing. Madrigal finished the season with one of his best performances — 207 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.
“We left it all out there, there is no doubt about that. But all the seniors I am going to miss playing with them,” Murphy said. “It just sucks because it’s probably my last game playing on Friday night. Even if we didn’t come up with the W, I know we won in ourselves.”
After losing their head coach after the first game of the season, starting on a losing streak and rallying for a PAC 5 title, it was certainly an whirlwind of a season — one that Murphy will never forget.
“We didn’t expect it to be like this, but overall I am so happy with our team,” Murphy said. “It was just a fun season with my brothers.”