With the return of Friday night lights and the regular football season, the excitement was palpable at Eastlake Catholic with a packed house on Acosta Field.
The Crusaders did not disappoint in their season opener. Despite significant player and coach absences due to a potential COVID-19 exposure, Eastside Catholic powered through against Kennedy Catholic with a 23-8 victory.
Getting the momentum started, Crusader quarterback Brady Mckelheer threw a touchdown on a pass to Dallas Daley in the first quarter.
Kicker Carson Russell added points to the board with a 24-yard field goal, and a touchdown run from Dallas Sooto gave the Crusaders a commanding 16-0 lead, which they would maintain for the rest of the night.
However, Kennedy Catholic would not settle for a complete route. They answered with a second quarter touchdown and two-point conversion, finishing at halftime with a score of 16-8.
The second half belonged to the Crusaders. In the fourth quarter, Quiten Chandler ran for the only touchdown of the second half, boosting the final score to 23-8, with the game ending just before 10:00 p.m.
Behind the scenes, Eastside Catholic had a rocky lead up to the game. Less than 24 hours before the kickoff, head coach Dominic Daste was notified that one of his players tested positive for COVID-19. Twenty-four players, including ten starters, were quarantined as a precaution, and could not suit up for the game.
Despite the setback, the team’s staff managed to coordinate a backup plan within hours of hearing the news, allowing the regularly scheduled game to move forward. Defensive coordinator Marcus Ungaro, who was also quarantined, was able to radio in his calls from home.
Eastside Catholic’s improbably victory marks a strong start to their 2021 season.
The next game for the Eastside Catholic Crusaders will be away against Valor Christian, a Denver-based high school, on Friday, Sept. 10 at 7:00 p.m.