Eastside Catholic had little difficulty scoring against O’Dea in their first meeting this season.
But the Crusaders couldn’t slow down the Irish offense, surrendering nine touchdowns in a loss to their Metro League rivals.
A lot has changed in six weeks.
Harley Kirsch threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns, Brandon Wellington had two interceptions and a touchdown run, and Eastside Catholic knocked off previously undefeated O’Dea, 28-14, in the Class 3A state football semifinals Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
The Crusaders (11-2) will play in their second consecutive state-title game. They lost, 35-3, to Bellevue last season.
Eastside Catholic will face five-time defending champion Bellevue or Shadle Park in the 3A state championship game at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
O’Dea won the first meeting against Eastside Catholic, 63-45, on Oct. 18 in one of the highest-scoring games in Metro League history.
Irish running back Myles Gaskin rushed for five touchdowns in the first game, but found the end zone once the second time around, tying the score on a 61-yard scamper early in the second quarter.
Eastside Catholic scored the next 21 points, getting two Kirsch touchdown passes in the second quarter and a 22-yard TD run by Wellington in the third for a 28-7 lead.
O’Dea (12-1) had scored 45 or more points in six consecutive games, including last week’s 63-20 quarterfinal thumping of Mountain View, but mustered one scoring drive through the first three quarters Friday.
Irish quarterback Pierre Le Dorze, who opened the game 0-for-7 passing, made his first completion — a 41-yard touchdown pass to Airik Myers — with just under 11 minutes to play, and O’Dea pulled within 28-14.
Kirsch threw three first-half touchdown passes, leading Eastside Catholic to a 21-7 halftime lead.
The biggest surprise in the opening two quarters, however, was the Crusaders’ defense, which held the Irish offense in check outside of Gaskin’s long scoring run.
Unlike the teams’ Oct. 18 meeting, when the score was 14-14 just 10 plays into the game, Eastside Catholic led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Kirsch threw his second touchdown pass midway through the second quarter. He found an open Colin Macilvennie, who caught four passes for 119 yards in the first half, for a 64-yard score.
O’Dea looked to answer late in the quarter, marching down to the Crusaders’ 12 before Wellington picked off Le Dorze in the end zone.
With 2:19 remaining in the half, Kirsch went to work, hitting Macilvennie on passes of 23 and 19 yards to get the Crusaders into Irish territory.
Two more long completions followed, and Eastside Catholic was on the O’Dea 5.
Kirsch closed out the first half with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Colin Boit with 21 seconds left.