GRANITE FALLS, Wash. - A third high school football team is now refusing to play Everett's Archbishop Murphy amidst concerns about player safety.
Archbishop Murphy is a private Catholic school in Everett that's been so dominant this season that South Whidbey, Sultan, and now Granite Falls High School have all opted to forfeit instead of taking the field against the Wildcats.
"The biggest concern is the recruiting aspect that private schools are able to do. They can pull from a 50-mile radius from their campus and send buses to pick the kids up," said Granite Falls Head Coach Tim Dennis. "Just the level of athletes they've been able to bring in on one team, it doesn't match up with a lot of the teams in our league."
It's an issue that's been widely discussed among athletic directors and coaches in the Cascade Conference that Archbishop Murphy is part of. In the three games Archbishop Murphy has played this season, they've outscored their opponents 170-0.
"It's not that we're afraid to play the game, it's an injury issue," said Dennis. "Because of the size disparity between the linemen. They have 300-pound linemen. And we have sophomores that are weight 210, 220 pounds and starting on varsity. So that's the issue, is the size disparity."
Granite Falls High School held a community meeting Tuesday evening in response to parent feedback and fears that their kids could get seriously hurt if they go through with Friday's game against Archbishop Murphy.
"My son is 5'8" and weighs 117 pounds and just got out of middle school and just turned 14. They've got 18-year-old players that are 6'5" and weigh 330 pounds. I mean, that's like putting a Volkswagen bug against a mack truck," said Granite Falls mom Stacey McBride.
She and many other parents on the team feel that a football game just isn't worth it.
"I've said from the very beginning that there's no way I'm going to let my son play these guys," said McBride. "He said Mom I'll get killed, why would I even put myself in that position?"
Those are the worries parents expressed to the school's principal, athletic director, and the school district superintendent.
In 2015, Granite Falls lost to Archbishop Murphy, 66-6. In 2014, they lost 56-7.
Athletic Director Joey Johnson, at first, said the decision had already been made, and the school leaders had no plans to forfeit this year's game to Archbishop Murphy.
"We made the decision to honor the commitment that we had made as a member of the Cascade Conference that we would play the game instead of forfeiting the game," said Granite Falls Athletic Director Joey Johnson.
In the end, it was the players themselves who had the final say.
They came forward in the middle of Tuesday's meeting and announced they'd decided as a team that they would not play Archbishop Murphy on Friday.
Parents in the crowd applauded their decision. One of the players explained that they chose to forfeit not because they are afraid to play Archbishop Murphy, but because the Granite Falls team is already dealing with some injuries. He said they'd rather have the chance to finish out their entire season than risk someone getting seriously hurt while playing the Archbishop team that has a bigger roster and much bigger players
Shortly after the meeting, Johnson sent an email to players, coaches, and parents confirming the official forfeit.
KING 5 reached out to Archbishop Murphy's coach and athletic director for comment, but we haven't yet heard back.