The Fighting Irish will play Kamiakin on Friday for the Class 3A state football title in a prime-time game at the Tacoma Dome. They can wrap up a perfect season with a win.
Players on the O’Dea football team looked up on Monday and found they were at the end. Monday was the first day of the final week of practice for the Irish, who began preparations for the Class 3A state-championship game against Kamiakin.
The contest will have the prime spot on Friday night in the Tacoma Dome, a 7:30 p.m. start following the Class 2B final at 4 p.m.
For the Irish, it’s the final chapter of what could end as a perfect season. It’s a season where O’Dea found brotherhood and friendship at every step.
2B: Napavine (12-0) vs. Liberty (12-1), 4 p.m.
3A: Kamiakin (11-2) vs. O’Dea (13-0), 7:30 p.m.
1A: Royal (12-0) vs. Connell (12-1), 10 a.m.
2A: Archbishop Murphy (13-0) vs. Liberty (12-0), 1 p.m.
1B: Odessa-Harrington (13-0) vs. Neah Bay (10-1), 4 p.m.
4A: Camas (13-0) vs. Richland (13-0), 7:30 p.m.
All games at Tacoma Dome
“No matter what happens Friday, this was a special group of kids,” longtime coach Monte Kohler said. “They just enjoy being out there every day, being with each other.”
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The Irish also have won all season long. The top-ranked team in The Seattle Times rankings sports a 13-0 record coming out of a Metro League that had been dominated the past few seasons by Eastside Catholic.
But O’Dea beat the Crusaders during the regular season.
“We took them one week at a time,” O’Dea senior lineman Tony Flor said. “But as the season progressed, we realized the bond we had together. We realized we had something going on. But we kept our heads straight.”
Many thought O’Dea might get a rematch for the title with the Crusaders, who entered the playoffs as the two-time defending Class 3A champs. But the Braves beat Eastside Catholic last Saturday in a semifinal to earn their spot in the title game.
It’s the first appearance in a championship game for the Irish since 2011, when they lost to Bellevue. A year earlier, Kamiakin (11-2) also was beaten by the Wolverines in the championship game.
Kamiakin still is looking for its first football state championship. The Braves are 0-3 all-time in the title game. O’Dea has lost its last three appearances, twice to Bellevue (2011, 2003) and once to Skyline (2007).
The Irish have won this game three times, in 1991 and back to back in 1994 and 1995.
This year’s version would dearly like to add to the legacy.
“It’s an honor to be able to play in the state championship,” said Flor, one of the Irish captains.
Kohler and O’Dea have tried to keep this week in perspective, as they’ve done all season.
“We’re having fun,” Kohler said. “We’re where we want to be. In a sense, it’s just another football game. But, we get to play all 14 weeks. That’s exciting.”
And it is the title game — in prime time on Root Sports.
“There’s a lot of hype to it,” Flor said. “And we have a lot of energy going right now.”
“It’s a long season,” Kohler added. “It tests the character of your kids. This week was the last Monday practice (a team could have). So that was nice.”
And the payoff at the end is Friday night.
“It’s not something you have for the other 13 games,” Flor said. “We’ve worked hard to keep each other focused.”