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Gonzaga Prep’s Chase Cash, foreground, knocks down the pass to Eastside Catholic’s Hunter Bryant at the goal line, denying the Crusaders a touchdown. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

In meeting of defending champs, Eastside Catholic beats Gonzaga Prep 21-7

SAMMAMISH, Wash. – Lunchroom talk is usually about how many points Eastside Catholic is going to score in its football games. But senior defender Talon Davis had something different to say Friday.

“If they ever run that reverse, I’m going to smack the dude,” he told his teammates of Gonzaga Preps’ run-option offense.

In the fourth quarter of the season opener for both teams, Davis’ moment presented itself. Down 21-7 on third down, the Bullpups called the reverse for senior Charlie Larson.

Davis charged and hit Larson for a 7-yard loss, forcing G-Prep to punt with 7:32 left in the game. The Bullpups weren’t a threat again, the Crusaders winning 21-7 at their own stadium.

“If I didn’t make that tackle, I would have been off the team,” Davis said. “This feels amazing. We had so many doubters. It’s beautiful.”

Friday’s matchup was of the reigning state champions. Eastside Catholic finished the 2015 season undefeated (13-0), topping it with a comeback win against Bellevue for the 3A championship. Gonzaga Prep ran all over Skyline for the 4A title and an undefeated season (14-0).

Yet, both teams lost multiple players who were key to their success. For Eastside Catholic, a big loss was at quarterback in Harley Kirsch, who surpassed 10,000 passing yards and 100 touchdowns in his high school career.

Junior Ze’Shaun Lewis stepped into the spotlight and did not disappoint. He completed 29 of 36 passes for 325 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

His favorite receiver was Hunter Bryant, who caught 16 passes for 139 yards.

Lewis put ECHS on the board first with a 23-yard touchdown pass to junior Marcus Stoebner, another first-time starter, with 9:07 remaining in the opening quarter. Lewis’ final score was a 10-yard toss to senior Chris Lefau with 4:29 in the third quarter to push the lead to 21-7.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, but we prepare so hard,” Lewis said of the start. “We definitely didn’t have our best offensive day, but we did good for having a lot of new starters on the offense. Yeah, a lot of us didn’t play last year, but we saw the mindset of what it takes to win state championships.”

Gonzaga Prep used nine ball carriers. Kasey Anthony saw the ball the most, finishing with 77 yards on 21 carries.

“Holding that group to seven points? Our defense did awesome,” said ECHS coach Jeremy Thielbahr, who played at Sandpoint. “That’s a hard game to play great in because of all of the option responsibilities. For us to be able to come out Week 1 and execute our responsibilities like that, credit to the defense.”