But the Fighting Irish are emphasizing that they are 0-0 and not the defending state champs heading into the season.
It’s tempting for O’Dea, which returns nine starters from last season, to boast about being the defending Class 3A state football champions.
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Senior quarterback Emonte Scott and senior running back Mark Tafia even scored in the win against Rainier Beach at the Tacoma Dome last year. The championship was the program’s first since 1995.
“But we have tell to the kids, ‘You didn’t win a championship,’ ” O’Dea coach Monte Kohler said. “They haven’t done anything, yet. They’re 0-0, and that’s all they can say right now.”
The road to defending the title begins Friday at West Seattle Stadium for O’Dea, which is third in The Seattle Times’ preseason rankings for Class 3A. The Irish host No. 10 Peninsula at 7 p.m.
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The Seahawks lost to Beach in the state quarterfinals last year, the fifth time in the past six years Peninsula’s playoff run ended at that point.
Like O’Dea, Peninsula returns a veteran quarterback in third-year starter Burke Griffin. However, the Irish are known more for their running game and lost Jamyn Patu. The state player of the year accounted for 2,181 of O’Dea’s 4,452 rushing yards last season.
Tafia, who rushed for 502 yards and six touchdowns during an injury-laden junior year, will lead a corps of six players expected to carry the ball.
Peninsula has a talented senior class who’ll challenge every aspect of O’Dea’s game plan. The schools haven’t faced each other since the 2010 postseason when the Irish defeated the Seahawks 21-7.
“(Emonte) can kind of hold it all together a little bit until everybody else catches up to speed,” said Kohler, who noted indoor practices due to wildfire smoke in the region slowed the team’s progress. “I think everybody is a little behind because of the situation with the smoke and all of that. It’s what preseason games are for, find out how you’re doing. I really don’t know how we’ll be.”
Two of the nation’s top quarterback recruits will play Friday on ESPNU.
Washington-bound Dylan Morris is back from injury and a fourth-year starter for Graham-Kapowsin. He’ll travel with the top-ranked Eagles to Eugene, Ore., to play Penn State-commit Michael Johnson Jr., a dual-threat quarterback for Sheldon.
The matchup is part of the 2018 Geico ESPN High School Football Showcase series and airs at 7 p.m. The network will air 11 nationally televised games.
Eastside Catholic quarterback Michael Franklin will make his debut against a team featuring the No. 1 recruit in the nation – defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior, tallied 20 sacks last season to help Oaks Christian win the CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship. Multiple recruiting sites regard him as the best player in the country for the 2019 class.
Oaks Christian, a private school about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, is also rated one of the top-10 teams in the nation. Already 2-0, the Lions will play Eastside in the Honor Bowl at Cathedral Catholic in San Diego on Saturday.
“I’ve been literally dreaming about it ever since I found out we’re playing in it,” said Franklin, who suffered a season-ending left collar bone injury in Week 3 last year. “I’m excited. It’s an even bigger stage to prove myself.”
This is the second time Eastside has participated in the event. The Crusaders played a highly touted Oceanside in 2015 and won. This year’s Eastside team features four-star receiver Gee Scott Jr.
The Honor Bowl’s lineup will air on Facebook Live.
New look, familiar face
Bothell graduated quarterback Jacob Sirmon, who’s at Washington. But coach Tom Bainter is familiar with the replacement, as it’s his son Erik.
The new-look Cougars are traveling to Colorado to play Legacy in the first of a home-and-home series. Last year Bothell beat Colorado’s JK Mullen 31-28.
In a twist, the trip is Bothell’s only “road game” of the season.
The Northshore School District’s four high schools share Pop Keeney Stadium for sporting events, so away games against district rivals Woodinville and North Creek are at Pop Keeney. Bothell will also welcome nonleague opponents in Kennedy Catholic (Sept. 8) and O’Dea (Sept. 15) to Pop Keeney.
Allen Harris tribute
Federal Way will honor teammate Allen Harris as part of its season opener against Thomas Jefferson Friday. Harris died at practice in July of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Among the tributes to Harris will be players from both teams joining on the field prior to the game to form the number 88, which Harris would have worn this season. Harris’ family plans to attend the game.