By Kiara Doyal, The Seattle Medium
The Garfield Bulldogs (7-4) and the undefeated Fighting Irish of O’Dea (11-0) met again last night at Memorial Stadium, as the Fighting Irish defeated Garfield 45-13, eliminating them from the state 3A football playoffs.
The Bulldogs showed up ready to play, knowing there was a lot on the line for last night’s game. Less than a minute into the game, Garfield quarterback EJ Caminong threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Mario Murphy, giving the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead.
Not to be outdone, O’Dea quarterback Antone Araujo matched the Bulldogs’ energy with a 53-yard touchdown run, as the Fighting Irish tied the game at 7-7 just four minutes into the first quarter after a successful extra-point attempt.
After the touchdown, O’Dea would seize the moment and leave no room for the Bulldogs to regain the momentum of the game. O’Dea’s defense began cracking down on Garfield, and the Bulldog offense started to feel the pressure. The Bulldogs’ Reggie Witherspoon, III, fumbled the ball, which was then recovered by the Fighting Irish.
The Fighting Irish’s Paki Crawford recorded a sack to give Garfield the ball on their own 43-yard line, shortly before O’Dea regained possession.
The Bulldogs’ defense began to settle in as they forced the Fighting Irish to punt. But O’Dea’s defense continued their relentless pressure and regained possession of the ball, which led to a field goal, giving the Fighting Irish a 17-7 lead.
Despite trailing behind O’Dea, the energy in the stadium remained high. The Bulldogs were in desperate need of a big play to shift the momentum in their favor. However, the Fighting Irish’s Quinn White had different plans, scoring on a 7-yard touchdown run to extend O’Dea’s lead to 24-7. As Garfield’s body language began to shift, so did the pace of the game on the field.
Zach Proctor of the Fighting Irish delivered another big sack, leaving Garfield with the ball on O’Dea’s 33-yard line. With 6:13 remaining in the second quarter, Araujo made an amazing interception, showcasing his talents as a well-rounded football player.
O’Dea running back Jason Brown Jr., a quiet presence during the first half, finally made his mark with a touchdown just seconds before halftime, extending the Fighting Irish’s lead to 31-7. In the blink of an eye, the Fighting Irish had built a substantial lead over the Bulldogs. In an attempt to narrow the gap, the Bulldogs went for a field goal, but it fell short, leaving the score at 31-7 as they entered the second half.
Giving no regard to the O’Dea lead, the Bulldogs seemed to have gained their momentum back during the third quarter.
Getting down to the final stretch of the game, the Fighting Irish were truly fighting all the way to the final whistle. Two minutes into the final quarter, O’Dea’s Zander Turner scored a touchdown as O’Dea increased their lead to 38-7.
With minutes remaining in the game and the finish line right in front of them, the Fighting Irish continued to make big plays to close out the game.
O’Dea’s Kyan McDonald got an interception that led to a 39-yard touchdown run by Christian Winn, bringing the Fighting Irish’s lead to 45-7.
O’Dea High School Head Football Coach Monte Kohler expressed his excitement for Winn’s return to the playing field after suffering an injury earlier in the season.
“He is great. Christian has been out since week three from a broken collarbone, so this was his first game back, and it was nice to have him back,” said Coach Kohler after the game.
While the final outcome of the game was no longer in doubt, the Bulldogs were still giving it their all to cut down the lead.
With 38 seconds remaining in the game, Garfield’s Rahshawn Clark threw a 50-yard pass to Benjamin Tariq Shabazz for a Bulldog touchdown. However, the Bulldogs’ attempt at a two-point conversion fell short as they decreased the lead to the final score of 45-13.
While enjoying the victory with his team, Coach Kohler still kept everything in perspective.
“We live to fight another day. You need to survive to advance, and that is what they did. I am so proud of them; they are fun to coach and be around,” said Kohler after the big win. “It was nice to see Garfield bring the energy early on. The game could have gone either way, but we just continued to score.”
After the tough loss, Garfield Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon, Jr. said his team was not physically where they needed to be against O’Dea, and he hopes to change that narrative next year.
“This is the furthest we have made it [in the playoffs in my tenure as coach], so for me, we are making progress,” said Witherspoon. “O’Dea is a great football team; they are arguably, in my opinion, one of the best teams in the state of Washington.”
Garfield Senior quarterback EJ Caminong was full of emotion after playing his final game as a Bulldog.
“I am so grateful and honored to be playing for this team; we did a complete turnaround for the whole entire program, turning it into a winning record this season,” said Caminong.
“My heart goes out to all of my seniors. I know they wanted this badly. They played really well but it takes more than just the seniors [to win a game like this],” said Witherspoon.
With the win, the Fighting Irish continue their journey in the state 3A playoffs next week with a semifinal matchup against Bellevue.
Pictorial Highlights of O’Dea vs Garfield