TACOMA — Six weeks can make quite the difference. Just ask Eastside Catholic.
A month and a half after allowing O’Dea to have its way offensively in a double-digit defeat, the Crusaders bested their Metro League rivals 28-14 in a 3A state semifinal game at the Tacoma Dome on Friday night to earn a spot in the championship game for a second consecutive year.
The difference? This time, the Eastside Catholic defense showed up to play.
The Irish running game racked up more than 300 yards in the first half during the matchup on Oct. 18, but ended with 222 total on Friday. O’Dea’s trio of backs found little room to run as the Crusaders swarmed the ball, allowing very little in the way of yards after contact.
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“We just wanted a second round with them,” Elisha Pa’aga said. “We believed that we were going to win, we knew we were going to win, we knew what our coaches were saying. We came together and executed at the highest level.”
O’Dea’s Myles Gaskin was the game’s leading rusher with 128 yards on 20 carries — a large chunk came on a 61-yard first-half touchdown run — but only nine of those came in the second half.
Eastside Catholic’s stout run defense forced O’Dea to take some deep shots down the field. Irish quarterback Pierre LeDorze struggled to connect with his receivers, failing to complete a pass in the first half and finishing 2 of 12 for 46 yards and a pair of picks, both by Eastside Catholic’s Brandon Wellington.
The Irish offense managed only 268 total yards of offense and picked up just 11 first downs. It is the first time O’Dea has been held under 35 points this season.
“We missed a lot of tackles last game, and we really wrapped up this game,” Pa’aga said. “Just came together as a team, as a unit and just executed.”
Meanwhile, Harley Kirsch and the Eastside Catholic offense hummed along just fine.
The sophomore quarterback tossed a trio of touchdowns to three different receivers to give the Crusaders a 21-7 halftime lead. Wellington added a 22-yard run in the third quarter for the Crusaders’ final points.
“They’re a very good football team,” O’Dea head coach Monte Kohler said. “They outplayed us tonight. They did a great job. My hat’s off to them.”
Eastside Catholic will face either Bellevue or Shadle Park, who play on Saturday, in next week’s state championship game.
Neah Bay 46, Lummi 14
After spotting Lummi a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the top-ranked Red Devils responded with 46 unanswered points to return to the championship game for the third straight year. They won the title in 2011, but lost last year to Liberty Christian.
Josiah Greene threw 179 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 83 yards and another score. Cody Cummins ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Neah Bay (11-0) will play the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between No. 3 Touchet (11-1) and Rosalia (8-2).