O’Dea spoils Spartans’ homecoming game

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Turnovers let Irish dominate in first home game of season.

Friday’s homecoming football game was “new field, same old result.” O’Dea continued its undefeated streak against Bainbridge with a 37-14 victory in the first game on the newly installed artificial turf at Memorial Stadium.

The Spartans played the role of generous host, continually giving the Irish advantageous starting field position. The Irish’s average starting position was the Bainbridge 46, while the Spartans began three drives inside their own 10 and their average start was their own 22.

Despite the loss, the Spartans (3-3, 1-2 Metro) are still very much in the hunt for a state playoff berth, though they almost certainly must win their two remaining games. They play Saturday at Lakeside (3-3, 0-3 Metro) and the following Friday at home against Blanchet (2-4, 1-2 Metro). If they win both games, Bainbridge could face either the winner of the Wesco Conference or combined Western Cascade Conference/Olympic League in the qualifying round on the weekend of Nov. 13-14.

Grimm noted that with Eastside Catholic and O’Dea now in the rearview mirror, those remaining games are “more with kids our own size, speed and strength. Things even up a bit. And both can beat us, so we have to take care of business.”

O’Dea’s size and skill level was too much for the Spartans Friday night, and penalties kept the situation from being even worse. The one time the Spartans started with excellent field position came after an O’Dea 15-yard personal foul put the ball on the Bainbridge 47. And the Irish had a kickoff return deep into Bainbridge territory nullified by a holding call.

Two crucial special teams mistakes by the Spartans also contributed to O’Dea’s superiority in field position.

“With one exception, they didn’t have to work the full field,” said coach Andy Grimm. “You can’t do that against a quality team. We had an A-plus in effort but not in execution. We made too many mistakes and they capitalized on them. We needed to keep the game close to have a shot.”

The game began auspiciously as the Spartans marched methodically down the field from their own 23. But facing a fourth and two at the O’Dea 28, quarterback Jason Haley was sacked for a two-yard loss.

The Irish promptly moved 70 yards on 13 plays to score the first touchdown on the new turf. But the last six yards took four plays as the Spartan defense, which played spirited football the entire game despite facing weight disparities of up to 100 pounds per man, dug in.

The Spartans couldn’t respond, going three and out on their four remaining first-half possessions and netting just 10 yards in that span. On the other hand, the Irish took advantage of a short punt on their second possession to score in just over a minute. Quarterback Gabe Lee threw a perfect ball to hit wide receiver Miles Edwards in full stride deep in Spartan territory and he easily scored for a 14-0 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Spartans tried a reverse. But the two returners collided and the ball popped free, pinning the Spartans on their own 8. Bainbridge had to punt and the Irish threatened again. The Bainbridge defense stiffened and the Spartans took over on downs on their own 2, though they had to punt again.

Taking the ball on the Spartan 42 with 1:20 remaining, O’Dea needed just 38 seconds to score as Lee and Cameron Welch hooked up a 15-yard completion. Though the PAT was blocked, the Irish went into the locker room leading 20-0.

The Irish moved downfield on the opening drive of the second half, but fumbled on the Bainbridge 9 and Alex Johnson recovered the loose ball. Once again the Spartans were unable to advance and lined up to punt. The officials ruled that punter Sam Snow touched his knee to the ground on the 5 as he bent down to field a low snap. The Irish needed just one play to put the ball in the end zone as Lee threw for his third score.

At that point the Bainbridge offense came alive. The Spartans went 72 yards – all on the ground – in 15 plays. Johnson went the final six yards up the middle to make the score 27-7.

The defense forced O’Dea to punt. But Bainbridge fumbled the ball on the first play and O’Dea recovered on the Spartan 25. With a third-and-22 on the Bainbridge 37 after a holding call, Lee hit Chandler Gayton over the middle on a short pass. He eluded several tacklers to push the score to 34-7.

Bainbridge came right back, going 77 yards in 12 plays. The key gains were a Haley to Anthony Carter pass for 21 yards, and Ross Cobb running for 13 yards on a fourth and five situation. Again Johnson powered the ball in from six yards out.

After an onside kick failed, the Irish moved downfield, aided by two personal foul penalties for late hits on Spartan defenders. But the Bainbridge defense continued to play hard and the Irish faced a fourth and seven on the Spartans’ 10 with less than a minute to play.

In what may have been an example of questionable sportsmanship, O’Dea let the clock run down to 16 seconds, called a timeout and kicked a field goal.

The two long second-half drives boosted the Spartans’ yardage total past 200. Cobb led Bainbridge rushers with 65 yards on 13 carries, while Johnson added 60 on 16 tries. Haley completed two of eight passes for 35 yards.

Defensively, Grimm singled out Kyle Szarzynski and Kiyle Playtor, both of whom had 11 tackles. He also cited Zane Sackett. “He was double- and triple-teamed by their big guys inside,” he said. “He didn’t show up in the stats but he opened things up for Kyle and Kiyle and the others to make plays.”

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