Not often do teams expose tradition-rich O’Dea like the defensive-minded Eastside Catholic football team did.

Not many times in this rivalry, which often decides who becomes the state champion in Class 3A football, does one team dominate so clearly.

Fifth-ranked Eastside Catholic forced seven turnovers, including four interceptions, and used a ball-control offense to devour second-ranked O’Dea 24-14 Friday night in a showdown of Metro League powers at West Seattle Stadium.

The Crusaders (5-1, 3-0 Metro) used a pair of scoop-and-score fumble returns for touchdowns to set the tone and establish itself as this season’s team to beat in Metro.

“The defensive coaching staff set us straight the whole game, and we just wanted to come hit them in the mouth,” said Eastside Catholic senior linebacker Hunter Misa, after his scoop-and-score fumble return gave his team a 14-0 lead just under two minutes into the second quarter. “You’ve got to come into games like this knowing you’re about to be in a war, and obviously it was a war. Each of us has to be locked in the whole game.”

The last two state championships in Class 3A were contested by these two dominant Metro teams with Eastside Catholic posting a 31-13 win in the 2018 title game and a 20-12 victory in the 2019 title tilt.

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The 2020 championship games were scrapped and the season pushed back to spring 2021 without a title game in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The previous four times the two teams faced off before the pandemic season, they were Nos. 1 and 2 in the Class 3A state rankings. EC leads the recent series 6-2 overall, including 4-2 in the regular season.

“This doesn’t mean anything,” Misa said. “This is just one game. We know we’re probably going to see them again.”

Samuel Burroughs scooped up a fumble by O’Dea quarterback John Kohler and ran 8 yards for a touchdown with 11:07 left in the game to give Eastside Catholic a 21-14 lead.

“Our defense was our best offense,” EC coach Dominic Daste said. “We’ve gotten better and better each week, especially defensively. This was the battle of the Catholics. There is history here with (O’Dea). We’ve met in state championships.

“Our kids get excited for a lot of game, but this one is important. It’s a meaningful game to everybody.”

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Chase Hamdan led EC’s rushing attack with 121 yards on the ground and one TD on 30 carries. Jason Brown managed 101 yards rushing and a TD on 19 totes for O’Dea (4-2, 2-1) despite being the focus of the Crusader defense.

Adam Jacobs booted a 29-yard field goal with 8:19 remaining in the game for a 24-14 cushion for the Crusaders. Eastside Catholic took advantage of a muffed kickoff return by O’Dea and recovered the ball at the Irish 30 to set up the kick.

Irish defensive back Kyan McDonald, a sophomore, made a timely play to help O’Dea pull even at 14-14 late in the third quarter. McDonald stepped in front of a Brady McKelheer pass in the right flat, and McDonald raced untouched for a 41-yard interception touchdown with 3:59 to go in the third quarter.

The Crusaders took a 7-0 lead on Masen Uribe’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2:27 left in the first quarter. The score was set up by a 51-yard interception return by Tyson Weaver down the left sideline. The pick was taken to the O’Dea 3-yard line, where Weaver was chased down. Two plays later, Uribe crashed into the end zone.

Eastside Catholic took a 14-0 lead on Misa’s 21-yard return of a fumble by the Irish’s Brown with 10:02 left in the first half.

“It felt like all the momentum was on our side,” Misa said of how he felt after his TD. “I just saw our young linebacker David Lene ripped that ball out. I just saw it on the floor, and I picked it up and walked it in.”

Brown, one of the top running backs in the state as a sophomore, got O’Dea back in the fight with a 46-yard touchdown burst over the right side with 6:22 left in the first half, cutting the Crusaders’ lead to 14-7.