The Crusaders, the Class 3A state champs, beat Peoria Centennial, Arizona's Class 5A state champs, 17-0 on the road.

Share story

PEORIA, Ariz. — The Eastside Catholic Crusaders are coming home as winners in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series.

The Crusaders, who beat O’Dea for the Class 3A state title earlier this month, used a stifling defense and balanced offense to knock off previously unbeaten Centennial of Peoria 17-0.

The matchup between state champions from different states was over by halftime as the Crusaders kept the Coyotes’ offense at a standstill. Centennial (14-1), ranked No. 23 in the nation according to USA Today, managed just one first down and 24 total yards in the first half as the Crusaders sucked the life out of the home crowd.

“We’ve had some big out-of-state games we lost, but for us to get this marquee victory is a great thing for our program,” Eastside coach Jeremy Thielbahr said.

J.T. Tuimoloau piled up three sacks to lead the defense, which outmuscled the Centennial offensive line all night.

“Before we came out here, we said we can’t lose twice out of state, and we made a statement,” said Tuimoloau, referring to a 35-12 season-opening loss to nationally ranked Oaks Christian in San Diego.

Eastside Catholic utilized a two-quarterback attack with Michael Franklin and Hayden Harris to pick apart Arizona’s Class 5A state champions.

Sam Adams II keyed the ground game with 20 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown. He did not rank this win over the state-title victory against O’Dea but was happy to prove any doubters wrong.

“The state championship was different because we were working for that the past three years, but coming in and proving everybody wrong was a great feeling,” he said.

The Crusaders (13-1) led 3-0 after one quarter on a Blake Hall field goal, and Adams punched in a 5-yard score 13 seconds into the second quarter. Harris added his 4-yard touchdown run just before halftime to give Eastside Catholic a 17-0 lead heading into intermission.

Franklin did most of the passing work, finishing 9 of 17 for 138 yards. Gee Scott Jr., who announced on Twitter that he will announce his college selection on Tuesday, hauled in four passes for 101 yards.

“We’re blessed we got another chance to prove ourselves against an out-of-state team and we got the win,” Scott said.

The Coyotes gained some momentum by blocking a field goal early in the third quarter, but consecutive false-start penalties killed the drive. A fake punt was sniffed out and the Crusaders milked the clock to end the quarter.

Jonathan Morris hooked up with Eric Haney on a 66-yard catch-and-run early in the fourth for Centennial’s biggest play of the game, but Tuimoloau ruined the drive with a monstrous sack.

The Coyotes had one last chance to score with about four minutes to play but failed to convert on fourth-and-two inside the red zone after Tuimoloau shut down yet another play.

“It’s great for us to represent the state of Washington, and it’s great for our seniors to end on a high note,” Thielbahr said.