In a season of exceeding expectations, the University football team ran into an obstacle it couldn’t overcome Saturday afternoon.
“They’re a better team than we are,” first-year University coach Rob Bartlett said after second-ranked Eastside Catholic topped his Titans 42-21 in a State 3A semifinal at Joe Albi Stadium.
“I’m just calling a spade a spade,” Bartlett added. “They’re better in most areas.”
The Titans (8-5) didn’t believe so until the horn sounded. And senior two-way starter Nathan Hundeby wouldn’t admit as much.
“We came out strong and they came out strong,” said Hundeby, a starter at defensive end and tight end. “They were a good team. They came ready like we did. We fought as hard as we could and it didn’t turn out like we wanted it to.”
The Crusaders (13-0) of Sammamish will take on powerhouse Bellevue (13-0) in the championship game Friday at the Tacoma Dome. Bellevue, ranked second in one national poll, has won four titles in a row and five of the last six.
After EC scored on the game’s first possession, U-Hi’s Brandon Anderson recovered a fumble that set up the Titans’ first touchdown. Eight plays later, quarterback Jeff Beaty hit Austin Flynn on a 2-yard pass to pull the Titans even at 7-7 with 3:55 to go in the first quarter.
It took a trick play for the Titans to answer the Crusaders’ second TD. Sophomore backup quarterback Garrett Schmerer, who started at receiver, took a pitch and found Flynn wide open on an 87-yard pass-and-run play that made the score 14-14 with 5:45 to go before halftime.
The athletically gifted Crusaders scored again when quarterback Trey Reynolds hit Henry Jarvis on a 10-yard pass with 1:51 to go in the second.
EC took control by scoring twice to open the second half.
“We had a couple of turnovers and we knew we were going to have to be plus two or three in that category to have a chance,” Bartlett said.
Reynolds spearheaded the Crusaders’ offense. He completed 13 of 19 passes for 172 yards and a TD and rushed for 85 yards on 19 carries and a TD.
“I’ll tell you what, that’s a well-coached ballclub,” EC coach Jeremy Thielbahr said of U-Hi. “They did a great job. They executed at a very high level. We had to go out there and make plays against them. A few breaks went our way and we executed a little bit longer than they did down the stretch.”
U-Hi refused to go away. The Titans’ final TD came when Beaty hit Hundeby on a 28-yard pass. Hundeby broke two tackles and didn’t take his eyes off the end zone.
“From the beginning of the season we came together as a team,” said Hundeby, who caught four passes for 107 yards and was in on numerous tackles. “As we moved through the season we became a family. That is what got us to third place in the state.
“I’m going to cherish this for the rest of my life. I’ll never forget this game. And all the rest of the games with this family.”
Bartlett was impressed with EC.
“That’s a great football team,” Bartlett said. “They’re going to give Bellevue all they want. There’s a reason they’re in the state championship game.”
As for the Titans, Bartlett had much to be thankful for.
“Our kids did what they’ve done the last five or six weeks, they just competed so hard,” Bartlett said. “They believed to the very end. The season’s huge for us. The hardest thing about this is getting kids to believe that they can get first or second or third in state. Once you get over that hump of being able to win a couple of playoff games and you get the younger kids to believe, that’s the biggest challenge when you’re dealing with a program that hasn’t had a ton of state success. We’re over that hump now.”
Eastside Catholic 42, University 21
|Eastside Catholic||7||14||14||7||- 42|
EC-Jarvis 2 run (Gai kick)
U-Flynn 2 pass from Beaty (Martin kick)
EC-Reynolds 10 run (Gai kick)
U-Flynn 87 pass from Schmerer (Martin kick)
EC-Jarvis 10 pass from Reynolds (Gai kick)
EC-Jarvis 19 run (Gai kick)
EC-Paaga 2 run (Gai kick)
U-Hundeby 28 pass from Beaty (Martin kick)
EC-Lattanzio 71 punt return (Gai kick)
RUSHING: Eastside Catholic-Reynolds 19-85, Jarvis 17-95, Paaga 2-7, Wellington 5-23. University-Beaty 17-14, Bonner 6-16, Hundeby 1-4, Anderson 1-5.PASSING: Eastside Catholic-Reynolds 13-19-0-172. University-Beaty 15-29-0-160, Schmerer 1-1-0-87.RECEIVING: Eastside Catholic-Wellington 4-56, Boit 2-17, Jarvis 2-26, Michalik 2-17, Meier 2-50, Musser 1-6. University-Flynn 4-90, Bonner 2-21, Hundeby 4-107, Martin 6-29.