BOTHELL — Before No. 1 O’Dea could get to the Class 3A state football championship matchup everybody was expecting to see, the Fighting Irish needed to end the championship dreams of the Kennewick Lions.
Thanks to an offense that controlled the clock and a defense that wouldn’t budge, the Fighting Irish (12-0) did just that. O’Dea defeated No. 5 Kennewick 29-7 on Saturday night at Pop Keeney Stadium to advance to next Saturday’s championship game where it will face No. 2 Eastside Catholic (11-1).
O’Dea scored on its first three possessions and the outcome was never really in doubt as the Lions (11-2) couldn’t slow down the running game of the Irish, led by sophomore K’son Mika, who was starting in place of senior captain Cameron Daniels, who sat with an undisclosed injury.
“It’s special because they’re such a great group of kids,” O’Dea coach Monte Kohler said. “We’ll celebrate this with them. … We’re excited. It feels very good.”
Mika carried much of the workload for O’Dea, scoring three rushing touchdowns, including a 54-yarder late in the game that all but assured victory.
“He did a great job,” Kohler said. “With (Daniels) out and him stepping in, it was pretty special. He was wonderful, and he played hard. He did what we asked of him, and he made the plays when we needed him to.”
Mika, who had 211 yards on 28 carries, was happy to contribute personally, but the win was what he was most excited about.
“We came in here just wanting to play for our brothers and play for each other,” Mika said. “I definitely had to step up with our starting running back out. I definitely learned a lot from him; he helped me out.”
After breaking his 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Mika had visions of the state championship trophy in his head.
“I was just thinking about state,” he said. “I was just ready to wrap it up and get ready for another week with my brothers.”
The Fighting Irish defeated Eastside Catholic in Week 6 28-6. Surely the Crusaders haven’t forgotten the outcome of that game as they look for redemption in the title game. The Irish have their own motivation as the Crusaders beat the Irish 31-13 for the state title last year.
Kohler said he and his team would be excited no matter who the opponent is.
“Obviously it’s them that we have to play, but whoever was there we would be looking forward to it,” Kohler said. “We know we’ve got our work cut out for us, and we’ll figure out what we have to do to play our best. It will be fun. It will be a battle.”
Mika admitted that he’s excited to see Eastside Catholic on the opposing sideline next week, agreeing that it is the matchup most wanted to see.
“We’re really looking forward to this one,” he said. “This is a big one. I know everyone wants to see it. We’re just going to go out there and do our thing and play O’Dea football.”