There was a moment, however brief, where doubt could creep in.
Dallas Daley and the rest of the Eastside Catholic Crusaders made sure that moment didn’t last long during their Class 3A state football quarterfinal game against Mount Spokane on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Daley made a big catch on the Crusaders’ second possession, scored two touchdowns in the first half and Eastside Catholic pulled away from the Wildcats for a 38-14 victory.
“No,” Crusaders quarterback Brady McKelheer said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We’re just confident in our team to produce, and we did that.”
Eastside Catholic (9-1) moves on to a semifinal next Saturday at Memorial Stadium against Kennewick (11-1), which beat O’Dea 27-21 in the game following Eastside’s win. The Tri-Cities school denied the all-Metro League semifinal. Eastside Catholic and O’Dea (8-3) met for the last two state-title games (before the pandemic canceled last year’s final) and the Crusaders won both.
That potential doubt-creating moment?
Mount Spokane’s first drive of the game, after the Wildcats held Eastside Catholic to a 39-yard field goal from Carson Russell on the game’s opening possession. Trailing 3-0 with 8 minutes, 34 seconds to go in the first quarter, the Wildcats drove 57 yards in nine plays.
On a second-and-goal from the 4, Blake Speer took a pitch and snaked his way into the end zone to put Mount Spokane on top, 7-3, with 4:41 left in the quarter.
“We knew there was going to be a little bit of a feeling-out process,” Eastside Catholic coach Dominic Daste said. “It was going to be hard to get to the quarterback initially. We talked about getting our hands up.”
Still, Wildcats quarterback Kellen Flanigan completed 3 of 4 passes on that drive for 26 yards before Speer paid the drive off with his run.
But Eastside Catholic scored on its next three possessions, pulling out to a 24-7 advantage, and never looked back. That first-drive touchdown was the only points the Wildcats offense could muster in the first half.
“Our coaches and our kids are really, really smart,” Daste said. “They adjust well. They changed a couple of things, a tweak here and there, and it helped.”
Tyson Weaver became the willing recipient of some big plays up front, making two interceptions for the Crusaders. The second resulted in a 91-yard interception return for a touchdown as Weaver grabbed a ball that was popped up after being tipped by the big guys up front.
“It starts with the ‘D’ line,” Weaver said. “Off the tip, the line and linebackers coming down allow me to make a play. So hats off to the entire defense.”
Offensively, little-used Chris Taylor stepped in and made two huge catches. The first, on a third-and-13 from the Eastside Catholic 17, extended the second possession of the game. Later in that drive, Daley made another big catch on a third-and-14.
Taylor got the go-ahead touchdown catch, a 12-yarder from McKelheer on the first play of the second quarter and Eastside Catholic was off and running.
Daley finished with 171 yards receiving on seven catches, and had those two touchdowns.
“We’ve been punched in the mouth before, this season,” Daley said. “We know how to come back from that. I think we were prepared well.”