The Fighting Irish rush for 412 yards to beat the Thunder 24-7 to advance to the Tacoma Dome where Metro rival Eastside Catholic awaits.
As the second-seeded O’Dea football team gathered around longtime coach Monte Kohler, the message was clear.
“This is not the goal. This is not the goal. This is not the goal,” Kohler repeated.
That’s because Kohler knows that the reward for an efficient 24-7 victory over third-seeded Mountain View of Vancouver in Saturday’s Class 3A state semifinals at Skyline High School is something much tougher.
The payoff for O’Dea (11-1) is facing top-seeded Eastside Catholic (11-1), a 41-3 winner over Bellevue, in Friday’s Class 3A state championship game at 7:30 p.m. in the Tacoma Dome. The Crusaders were the last team to beat the Irish, who are in the final for the third consecutive season and chasing a state title repeat.
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“I don’t know if we can match up (with Eastside Catholic), but we’re going to show up that’s all I can guarantee you,” said Kohler, who in his 34th season guided the program to its 10th championship game appearance in search of a fifth state title. “They’ve got 10 (NCAA) D-1 kids and we’ve got none, so we’re going to show up and we’re going to play our football and hopefully we can slow them down a little bit.
“We’ll try to keep it close into the fourth quarter and see what happens.”
Against the Thunder on Saturday, the Irish churned out 412 yards rushing and 428 yards overall as it didn’t matter who carried the ball with such a strong push from the offensive line. Senior quarterback Emonte Scott directed the O’Dea offense with 89 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Mark Tafia, another senior, ran for a game-high 137 yards and a TD on 17 carries for the Irish.
“I think our O-line really did the work today,” said Scott, who added an interception on defense. “They were getting their blocks today and there was blocking 20, 25 yards downfield. Owen Prentiss (a 270-pound guard) and Alexx Schmidt (a 293-yard guard) both did a great job today. I’m confident in our running game.”
The Irish have won six games in a row since their lone loss, a 31-13 decision at the hands of Eastside Catholic on Oct. 5.
“We’ve got to watch our film, know what we need to do and we’ll be fine,” Scott said of facing Eastside Catholic again. “We just have to play our game and not worry about what happened last game, turn the page and play the next game. We’re going to try to play our best game.”
Mountain View (11-2) crept within 14-7 on its first possession of the second half. With 8:19 left, Scott’s 1-yard QB sneak pushed the lead to 24-7 and the Irish’s ball-control offense had done the job.
The last time the two Metro rivals met in the state playoffs, the Crusaders beat O’Dea 28-14 in the Class 3A state semifinals in 2013. O’Dea has lost two games in row to EC, last winning 20-17 in the 2014 regular season.