SAMMAMISH — Could there be a better way to signify that high-school sports are back in King County than an Eastside Catholic vs. O’Dea football game?
The two Class 3A football powers, who have met in the past two state championship games, opened the Metro League football season Friday night at Eastside Catholic.
Eastside Catholic used three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Kobe Muasau — two to freshman Unterrio Latin-Henly — and a dominating defense led by five-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau to beat the Irish 20-0.
After struggling with five turnovers in the first half, the Crusaders pulled away in the second. Muasau was 7 for 7 for 116 yards in leading Eastside Catholic to scores on its first two drives of the second half.
Those drives concluded on an 11-yard pass to Henly and a 39-yard pass to Tuimoloau, who also plays tight end, giving Eastside Catholic a 20-0 lead with 11:52 left.
That was the end of any suspense.
“I felt like we were beating ourselves in the first half, and we just had to fix our little mistakes here and there,” Muasau said.
Muasau was 11 of 12 in the seconds half for 122 yards. He was 20 of 25 for the game for 252 yards. Latin-Henly had four catches for 111 yards and the two scores. Tuimoloau had six catches for 85 yards and the score.
Most important for the Crusaders was they had no turnovers in the second half.
The defenses stole the show in the first half as the defensive lines dominated. Quarterbacks had little time and running backs had little room. Turnovers (seven) were more common than first downs (six).
That’s the type of half it was.
Eastside Catholic led 7-0 at halftime, scoring when Muasau found Latin-Henly behind the O’Dea defense for a 67-yard scoring pass.
But that was about it for first-half offensive highlights. Eastside Catholic threw for 130 first-half yards, but had just three first downs, minus-20 yards rushing, 11 penalties and five lost fumbles. Yes, five.
O’Dea, playing without senior quarterback Milton Hopkins Jr., had 66 yards rushing in the first half but just three first downs and minus-2 yards passing. The Irish finished with 95 yards of offense and didn’t gain any more yards through the air.
O’Dea coach Monte Kohler said his team played hard but lamented that the Irish did not capitalize on all of Eastside Catholic’s turnovers in the first half. Fumbling on the Eastside Catholic 3-yard line in the second quarter — one of two lost fumbles for O’Dea — especially hurt.
“That was huge. I thought we had a chance to score,” said Kohler, who said Hopkins Jr. will return in the fourth game.
Eastside Catholic rallied late to beat O’Dea in the 2019 state championship, avenging a regular-season loss to the Irish. It was the second straight state title for the Crusaders. It was the fourth straight title game appearance for O’Dea, which won the championship in 2017.
In the past four regular-season meetings, it was a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, with each team winning twice. So it was no soft landing for either team, something Eastside Catholic coach Dominic Daste talked about a couple days before the game.
“I am super excited to be back on the field, coaching our kids and being around each other, but I am not so excited about playing O’Dea for our first game,” he said. “I kind of say that tongue in cheek, because they’re so good, and because I have so much respect for their program. It’s a tough game right out of the gate.
“No other game we play in or encounter is like this one. It means a lot to both sides … and I’ve said this before, Monte Kohler has forgotten more football than I know.”
Daste said his “kids were really appreciative and that a lot of people worked really hard to give them the opportunity to go back on the field.”
Daste singled out Kohler, who is also the athletic director at O’Dea, for the work he did in getting sports back.
“I know he worked night and day for all high-school sports — not just football — to get back to what they’re doing,” Daste said.
But Friday night, the goal for Daste’s team was to send Kohler and the Irish home with a loss.