By Ray Jaun Stelly, The Seattle Medium
High school football is officially played at none other than Memorial Stadium. With the sun setting and the iconic Space Needle overlooking the field, the O’Dea Fighting Irish and Bothell Cougars would face off at the start of the 2022 season. After losing 27-21 to Kennewick in last season’s state quarterfinals, the Fighting Irish are looking to return to the dominating and winning football culture they have carved for themselves.
O’Dea’s Jason Brown, Jr., a four-star athlete according to ESPN and the No. 1 running back in Washington state, wanted to set the tone for the Fighting Irish offense early on. However, the Cougars didn’t allow Brown and O’Dea’s offense to immediately take control of the game as Bothell would capitalize on the momentum of the first half and open a 13-0 lead. From forced punts, false start penalties and getting an interception – Bothell’s early dominance made the Fighting Irish look very undisciplined – very uncharacteristic of this famous program.
With 13 points down before halftime, O’Dea finally found his offensive rhythm in the final two minutes of halftime. Moving the chains with their ability to run and throw the ball from time to time, the Fighting Irish surprised the Cougars with a screen pass from quarterback Luke D’Anna to Cole Zilmer for what appeared to be a touchdown, but a costly one The penalty would wipe out their potential 7-13 deficit.
Instead of being six points behind, the Fighting Irish were 13 points down and had to overcome a two-touchdown deficit in the second half. Bothell would get the kickoff in the second half and immediately the Fighting Irish defense forced a punt that gave them good field possession to start the second half. Sticking to her game plan of running the ball, O’Dea put the ball in the hands of her running backs, resulting in a 25-yard touchdown run from Brown to give the Fighting Irish their first points of the game grant.
After finally placing points on the board, the momentum of the game shifted entirely to O’Dea and her fan base. With a 13-7 lead after the Brown touchdown, Bothell would reach the red zone for the fourth time in the game. The Cougars looked like they were on track to score and decided to take it on May 4th Low. At 4th Down play, Fighting Irish defensive back Gabe Harris intercepted a pass from Bothell quarterback Ryder Jacobsen and returned it to the 30 yard line.
On the next play, Brown blew up the field for a 70-yard touchdown run to give O’Dea a 14-13 lead before the third quarter ended.
Defensively, the Fighting Irish eliminated casual penalties and looked like the disciplined team fans know. O’Dea’s defense didn’t allow Jacobsen to feel comfortable in the bag as they recorded sacks, tackles for losses, deflected passes and completely threw the Cougars off-beat.
With their defense leading to offense, the Fighting Irish scored the final touchdown of the games when D’Anna found Darien Maragh for a 30-yard touchdown pass that extended O’Dea’s lead to 21-13. O’Dea posted 21 unanswered points in the second half and finished the game with his defensive line forcing an intentional ground penalty and turnover on downs for a win over the 4A Cougars from behind.
O’Dea got off to a rocky start to the 2022 season opener and showed why they’re consistently one of the best teams in the state. The Fighting Irish play their first Metro League matchup against Bishop Blanchet next week, Friday 9th September at Memorial Stadium.