The Fighting Irish have been playing strong defense in recent weeks. Will it be enough to end the Crusaders’ 32-game in-state winning streak?
The high school football regular season is more than halfway completed. But O’Dea coach Monte Kohler still isn’t sure what he has in this Irish team.
“We played some good teams early,” Kohler said. “But we’re still growing.”
O’Dea handed Lincoln of Tacoma its only loss of the season in Week 1 when the Abes were ranked third in the state. It went on the road and beat Skyview, which was ranked No. 5 at the time, in Week 3.
But this week, the second-ranked Irish will get a real sense of exactly where the team is at when it hosts two-time defending Class 3A state champion Eastside Catholic, the state’s top-ranked team, at 5 p.m. on Friday at Memorial le Stadium in a key Metro League Mountain Division game. (Note: The time and venue for this game changed Friday because of the weather.)
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“It’s going to be fun,” Kohler said. “If we can find a way to slow them down. We just haven’t really done anything yet.”
Well, actually: O’Dea has scored less than 31 points only once all year in compiling a 6-0 record. The Irish have allowed just six points total the past two weeks.
“We’ve started to play pretty good ‘D,’ ” Kohler said.
The Crusaders (6-0) haven’t allowed more than 16 points all season. Eastside Catholic hasn’t lost in the state of Washington since the 2013 state title game against Bellevue. The Crusaders are riding a 32-game, in-state winning streak.
Eastside Catholic lost to Trinity Christian at Florida Atlantic University 35-21 on December 27, 2014.
Despite losing a number of big-name players to graduation after an undefeated 13-0 title run in 2015, Eastside Catholic hasn’t missed a beat.
“They have good kids across the board,” Kohler said. “And he (Jeremy Thielbahr) does a great job of coaching. They have a system. They have a nice little run going.”
O’Dea has bounced back from a 7-3 season in 2015, a rare year in which the Irish did not get out of the state preliminary playoff round in Week 10. The Irish have done so with that good defense and by spreading the ball around.
“We’re playing two different kids at fullback, two more at tailback,” Kohler said. “Once we find that kid, we ride him a little more.”
Two weeks ago, the load fell to junior Jamyn Patu. A week ago, it was another junior, Connor Gregoire, who ran for more than 100 yards and four touchdowns.
The Irish are excited to get a shot at the champs.
“How can you not be?” Kohler asked. “I enjoy all that stuff. But, it’s not an end-all. The ones that really hurt are the ones where, if you lose, you’re done.”