BOTHELL — On Sept. 2, the Meadowdale football team began its 2016 season with a 46-point loss to Monroe.
That kind of defeat would’ve sapped the confidence out of a lot of teams, but the Mavericks chose to look at the loss in a different light: they embraced it as an opportunity to get better.
They sure improved as the season went on. They tied for the 3A Wesco South regular-season championship and advanced to the 3A state tournament semifinal round for the first time in program history.
Meadowdale’s season came to an end Saturday with a 35-9 loss to O’Dea in a semifinal game at Pop Keeney Stadium.
“We got exposed in that first game. The whole mindset (after that) was on getting better,” Mavericks coach Matt Leonard said. “We knew we had a chance to be pretty good. We made some changes and corrections, and you see the result — we’re playing in the semifinal. Our kids fight so hard, play so tough. The situation doesn’t matter. We battle.”
Meadowdale advanced to the final four on the strength of its offense, which averaged more than 36 points per game.
But the Fighting Irish, ranked No. 1 in the latest Associated Press state 3A poll, shut down the Mavericks’ attack Saturday, especially in the second half.
Meadowdale took a 9-7 lead into halftime, but couldn’t do anything with its second-half possessions — the Mavericks punted four times, turned the ball over on downs and were intercepted in the third and fourth quarters. O’Dea’s pass rush became dominant, recording eight second-half sacks.
“They were bigger and more physical than us,” Leonard said. “We didn’t execute at the point of attack. They shut us down (on the ground) and made us one-dimensional, and then they started bringing pressure on us, and we had a hard time handling it.”
On the other side of the ball, the Mavericks couldn’t contain the Fighting Irish running attack, which was led by Jamyn Patu. His two third-quarter touchdown runs gave O’Dea a 21-9 lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Patu finished with 203 yards and three scores.
The performance of the Fighting Irish running game became more important after Irish quarterback Benjamin Beale left the game with a knee injury early in the first quarter.
“(Losing Beale) was tough, but we’ve dealt with it before,” Patu said. “We’ve always played ‘next-man-up’ football. At first (Meadowdale was stopping our run by) filling up all the gaps, and we talked about ways we could fix it. We tried to close off the backers from their pursuit, and that opened some holes.”
The Mavericks took a 9-7 lead in the second quarter when Tingstad capped off a long drive with a 1-yard scoring run. They took that advantage into halftime.
“They came out and had a lot more energy,” said O’Dea coach Monte Kohler. “We lost our focus a little bit. They played harder. Give them credit — early on they took it to us. They really did. (Tingstad) is probably the best quarterback we faced this year, and they’ve got some kids that can run around and make plays.”
After Patu scored his second touchdown to give O’Dea a 14-9 lead early in the third quarter, Meadowdale drove down to the Fighting Irish 2-yard line, but Tingstad’s fourth-down pass was intercepted in the end zone by Hunter Franco.
The Mavericks’ offense was never the same after that.
“We had our chances and we missed them,” Leonard said. “For a half we showed that we’re capable of playing with anybody. Unfortunately in the second half we just didn’t make the plays, and they kind of wore us down.”