Not many people outside of the Meadowdale locker room gave the Mavericks a chance in Saturday’s 3A state semifinal against No. 1-ranked O’Dea at Pop Keeney Stadium in Bothell.
But playing the role of the underdog is nothing new to the Mavericks, and it didn’t seem to bother them on Saturday – at least for a half.
Meadowdale led 9-7 at halftime, but the Fighting Irish scored 28-unanswered points in the second half to move on to next Friday’s state championship game against Kamiakin and ending the Mavericks’ season.
The Mavs advanced to the semifinals for the first time in school history after losing five times previously in the quarterfinals. Meadowdale came from behind to beat Lakeside in the quad-district playoffs and did it again the following week in a state playoff game against Kelso. Last week in the quarterfinals against Peninsula, the Mavs built a 27-7 halftime lead, but had to hang on for dear life to beat the Seahawks 34-29 to advance to the semis.
After Saturday’s loss to O’Dea, a choked-up Matt Leonard, the Mavs’ second-year head coach, expressed pride in the way his team performed throughout the postseason.
“It’s hard to measure in words,” Leonard said. “Our kids just fight so hard and play so tough. It just doesn’t matter the situation. We were down our center so we slide a tight end in there and we battle, beating the No. 1 team in the state at halftime.”
Though the final score might not indicate it, the Mavs were clearly the better team in the first half. They put together long drives on each of their first three possessions, but got just three points out of their efforts. Meanwhile, their defense didn’t allow a single first down in the first quarter.
“We missed on some chances early in the game and early in the second half to capitalize and extend our lead,” Leonard said. “Then they just kind of wore on us. They’re No. 1 and unbeaten for a reason.”
The Meadowdale defense finally cracked on O’Dea’s first possession of the second quarter, allowing a 67-yard touchdown run to junior Jamyn Patu. The Fighting Irish missed an opportunity of their own later in the quarter when they had a touchdown run by junior Connor Gregoire called back for holding. They turned the ball over on downs three plays later.
Meadowdale took advantage using a little trickery. Senior Drew Tingstad threw a pass behind the line-of-scrimmage to senior tight end Zach Plummer. Plummer then found a wide-open Will Schafer, who is a junior wide receiver, for a 48-yard completion down to the O’Dea 15-yard line. Two plays later, Tingstad scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper.
Schafer, who is also the kicker, had his extra point blocked and the Mavs took a 9-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Patu, who finished with 211 rushing yards on 14 carries and scored three touchdowns, scored his second TD of the game on a 25-yard run on the Irish’s first possession of the second half. The score gave O’Dea a 14-9 lead.
Meadowdale appeared as though it would quickly regain the lead when Tingstad connected with senior Haelin Roberts on a deep ball. Roberts looked as though he would score, but was caught at the 4-yard line by O’Dea senior defensive back Thomas Stowers. It turned out to be one of the plays of the game as Tingstad threw an interception three plays later and the Mavs came away with no points.
“It was (a) killer,” Leonard said. “They kind of bowed their neck and stiffened there on the goal-line. When you’re on the (4)-yard line you’re feeling pretty good about your chances and you’re going to give it a go. …To me that was the game right there.”
Patu scored on a 49-yard run later in the third quarter and Gregoire added touchdowns runs of 4 and 9 yards in the fourth quarter to make up the final margin.
The Mavericks struggled to get their running game going, but Tingstad kept the Mavs in it for much of the game with his arm. The senior finished 14-for-32 for 149 yards and two interceptions in his final high-school game.
But when the Mavs needed to rally the O’Dea defense tightened, sacking Tingstad eight times in the second half.
A successful playoff run not many expected comes to an end, but Leonard couldn’t help thinking of what might have been.
“It means a lot (to make it to the semifinals), but we had higher aspirations than that,” he said. “We felt like we could win it all. For a half, we showed you that we were capable of playing with anybody, unfortunately in the second half we just didn’t make the plays and they just kind of wore us down.
“I think that team is going to win it all next Friday night and we were beating them at halftime. It should have been more. It shouldn’t have been 9-7, it should have been more like 21-7. Unfortunately, things just didn’t go our way in the second half.”
At Pop Keeney Stadium
Meadowdale 3 6 0 0 – 9
O’Dea 0 7 14 14 – 35
M – Will Schafer 27 FG
O – Jamyn Patu 67 run (Stephen Powell kick)
M – Drew Tingstad 1 run (kick blocked)
O – Patu 25 run (Powell kick)
O – Patu 49 run (Powell kick)
O – Connor Gregoire 4 run (Powell kick)
O – Gregoire 9 run (Powell kick)
Records – Meadowdale 10-3. O’Dea 13-0
— By Aaron Lommers
Special to My Edmonds News