Brandon Wellington scored three touchdowns, two on kickoff returns, and quarterback Harley Kirsch threw four touchdown passes to lead Eastside Catholic back to the Class 3A state title game for the fourth straight year with a 49-21 win over Lakes.

Share story

TACOMA – Brandon Wellington’s first statement was emphatic.

His second and third encores simply added to Eastside Catholic’s 49-21 victory over Lakes in the first 3A football semifinal at the Tacoma Dome on Friday.

Having won the coin toss, the Crusaders (12-0) chose to take the ball first.

As on virtually every opponent kickoff, Wellington wound up with the ball in his hands at his own 16-yard line. It took him 14 seconds to traverse the next 84 yards for the first of five first-quarter touchdowns Eastside Catholic scored as the Crusaders built a 34-7 lead after the first 12 minutes.

“That’s a great victory for us,” Eastside Catholic coach Jeremy Thiebahr said. “We came out hot, jumped on it and were able to put them away early like we needed to.”

Eastside Catholic advances to its fourth consecutive 3A title game. The Crusaders lost to Bellevue in 2012 and 2013 before turning the tables and beating the Wolverines handily, 35-13, a year ago.

Eastside Catholic will get either Bellevue next Friday at 7:30 p.m.

“Just coming out of the gate, we knew what we needed to do,” Wellington said. “Special teams is a game-changer. You saw it. It gives us that extra pep in our step to be up.”

Wellington’s second kickoff return for a touchdown, this one from 82 yards, closed the first-quarter onslaught, and also provided an answer to the Lancers’ only real positive of the period. Wellington returned his second kickoff after an 80-yard, 11-play drive that got the Lancers back to within 28-7.

“Believe it or not, we coached all week not to kick it to him,” Lakes coach Dave Miller said of Wellington. “And we kicked it to him anyway. To spot them 21 made it too easy on them early.”

The University of Washington-bound senior closed the first-half scoring with his third touchdown, on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Harley Kirsch with 35 seconds left before halfitme, to stake the Crusaders to a 42-14 lead at the break.

It was Kirsch’s fourth touchdown pass of the game. He completed 11 of 13 passes in the half for 194 yards, going over the 3,300-yard mark for the season.

Kirsch, who threw just one pass in the second half, finished with 243 yards, bringing his total for the season to 3,351 yards. It’s currently the 12th-best season for passing yards ever in the state, with one game remaining for the Cornell-bound senior.

Lakes (10-3) did move the ball. The Lancers simply couldn’t finish drives to dig out of the large early hole the Crusaders put them in. Lakes got inside the Eastside Catholic 20 six times, but could score on only two of those opportunities.