Crusaders kept it competitive, especially on defense
TACOMA — It’s been a season to remember. A season of firsts.
Eastside Catholic won more games this season than any other football team in school history.
But the Crusaders wanted another one. And as improbable as it sounds, playing against a Bellevue team ranked No. 2 in the nation, they believed they could get it.
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“We were expecting to win,” said coach Jeremy Thielbahr, in his second year directing the Crusaders. “We weren’t trying to play for second.”
Yet there would be no fairy-tale ending to this Cinderella season. No David taking down Goliath. The Crusaders (13-1) fell one victory short of a perfect season, falling 35-3 in game that most times felt much closer.
But they played like champions, especially on defense.
“I’m very proud of the boys, they fought hard,” Thielbahr said. “I don’t think the score really shows how hard-fought it was.”
Senior quarterback Trey Reynolds slowly walked off the field as though he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, lamenting the lack of production on offense. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 133 yards and rushed for 41 yards on 23 carries.
“I’ve got to hand it to our defense, they worked their butts off,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “We should have scored more on offense. I’ll take that one.”
Championship games are old hat to Bellevue. It was uncharted territory for the Crusaders. A reason for pride, but also the root of a few improbable mistakes early on.
“It’s the greatest season in the history of Eastside Catholic,” Thielbahr said. “We’ve never come this far. We’ve never been in the Dome and I think it showed. We’ve never been in a state championship game. I think we had some nerves.”
The first thing he told his players after the game was he still believed they could have won.
“The positive you take from this,” he later told reporters, “is that if this is the No. 2 team in the nation, which I think it is — they’ve got a strong team, they’ve got a strong history — I think we can compete with them. We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make down the stretch.”
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