After a thrilling back-and-forth battle at Friday’s big game, the Eastside Catholic Crusaders came out victorious over big city rival the O’Dea Fighting Irish with a fourth quarter comeback, winning 24-17.
Crusaders Quarterback Brady McKelheer completed 18 of 32 passes for 294 yards passing. In addition to the game-winning touchdown, wide receiver Jayden Reyes had four catches for 93 yards receiving.
The Crusaders seemed to have the advantage at the start when Reyes, with the Irish hot on his tail, pulled down a 40+-yard pass at the 26-yard line. The Irish defense held the Crusaders to a field goal. This put the Crusaders on the board, 3-0.
Being consistently shut down by Crusaders cornerback Tyson Weaver, Irish quarterback Luke D’Anna found nothing but frustration, ending the first quarter with a fumble and no addition to the score.
During the second quarter, the offense went back and forth until cornerback Vaughn Lowe intercepted for the Irish, running the ball back to the 30-yard line. The Irish, peppered with penalties and faced with a strong Crusaders defense, advanced only to the 20-yard line, forcing the Irish to settle for a field goal.
With a low-scoring 3-3 tie at the half, it was anyone’s game.
The Crusaders, pumped to open the second half, started with a long 40-yard bomb to wide receiver Branden Ganashamoorthy, bringing the Crusaders upfield to the 59-yard line. After a penalty and a fumbled pass to tight end Gabe Hoffman, the Irish gained possession.
However, the Irish soon lost their offensive with a matching fumble, giving the Crusaders an opening to advance to the 25-yard line and the opportunity to break the tie. Stalled until the fourth down, Crusaders tight end Hoffman caught a pass at the 4-yard line, setting up running back Masen Uribe for a rushing touchdown and a 10-3 lead to end the third quarter.
Anxious to keep up, the Irish quickly answered as the fourth quarter opened when fullback Beckett Swanson rushed into the end zone from 20 yards out to tie the game, once again, at 10-10.
The Crusaders’ counteroffensive was slow and stifled by untimely penalties, but freshman wide receiver Asa Thompson, in utter disregard for such frustrations, caught a short pass and crusaded 58 yards upfield for a tie-breaking touchdown that put his team back in the lead while the crowd cheered his name.
A failed field goal attempt left the score at 16-10, with enough time for the Irish not only to answer back but possibly take the lead.
Refusing to relent, the Irish made a slow ascent, yard by yard, painstakingly advancing to the 5-yard line to position tight end Tucker Ashcraft for a short passing 6-yard touchdown. With the successful point-after-touchdown, the Irish reclaimed the lead late in the game, 17-16.
With only 2 minutes left at the Crusaders’ own 22-yard line, the pressure was on. Crusaders QB McKelheer, like a machine, completed pass after pass to Hoffman and Reyes, bringing the team to the 59-yard line. Just as the Irish seemed confident they would hold the line, McKelheer found wide receiver Reyes unprotected at the 15-yard line. Taking advantage of the Irish oversight, Reyes caught a 25-yard pass and ran the additional 15 yards for the ultimate game-winning touchdown. Following up with a safety instead of a field goal, the Crusaders added an additional two points to the board.
With 53 seconds left on the clock, the Irish failed to move the ball, and the Crusaders brought home a hard-fought 24-17 victory.
Eastside Catholic now holds the lead in the all-time series with O’Dea at 12-11.