It’s the 23rd league title for the top-ranked Fighting Irish, who denied Garfield its first Metro title since 1979.
Tradition returned to O’Dea on Friday.
After a two-year absence, the Fighting Irish (9-0) reclaimed the Metro League football title with a 34-7 win against Garfield. O’Dea, which is ranked No. 1 in The Seattle Times’ Class 3A poll, has won 23 league titles in its history.
“This is awesome,” said Monte Kohler, who has coached the Irish program for three decades.
Kohler was most happy for seniors such as lineman Doug Russell and running back Hunter Franco. The Irish didn’t advance to the state tournament last season and lost in the opening round in 2014. This season, the impressive group went undefeated in league play.
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Tucked in the string of nine wins was handing Eastside Catholic, the defending Class 3A state champion, its first loss in its past 33 matchups against Washington teams.
“These seniors have just been fighting and working,” Kohler said. “I’m really proud of them. It’s pretty special. Any time you get to win a championship with a great bunch of kids, it makes your heart tickle.”
Garfield (8-1) was undefeated, too, in its lead-up to Friday’s game at Memorial Stadium. It was a clash between public and private schools, a hot topic in local football after several teams forfeited against Archbishop Murphy, a private school in Everett.
But O’Dea didn’t fully overpower Garfield, although the Bulldogs’ sole score came with just 57 seconds left in the game. Garfield, ranked No. 9 in Class 3A, was able to stop O’Dea at the goal line with 4 minutes left, which also prevented a mercy-rule running clock.
“That was a physical football game,” said Kohler, who played his second string for the majority of the second half.
O’Dea opened its scoring on a 7-yard run from junior Jamyn Patu with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
The highlight defensive series for O’Dea was when Garfield was at the Irish’s 13-yard line on third down and Franco sacked quarterback Max Nall for a loss. Nall then threw an incomplete pass to turn the ball over on downs.
O’Dea quickly advanced the ball and Franco turned the offensive opportunity into a 22-yard touchdown run. The score put the Irish up 21-0 with 1:34 left in the second quarter.
Hunter finished with 107 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns.
“Our defense did a nice job,” Kohler said. “They’re (Garfield) high-powered and do a lot of great things, so I was pretty happy with the way our defense played. It was a great ball game.”
Garfield hasn’t won a Metro title since sharing a league title in 1983.