Eastside Catholic’s football team is in the 3A state semi-finals for only the second time in school history (1994) and will travel across the Cascades to face University-Spokane for a spot in the 3A state title game.
The Titans are winners of six consecutive and defeated Eastside’s Metro League rivals from O’Dea in the first round of the tournament before downing North Thurston last week.
Jeremy Smith, who has followed U-Hi throughout the year, took some time with the Reporter to talk about the stars for the Titans on both sides of the ball, the buzz in Spokane for the game and what University needs to do to slow Trey Reynolds, Henry Jarvis and an explosive EC offense.
ISSAQUAH-SAMMAMISH REPORTER: University lost three of four to begin the year, but has run off six in a row heading into Saturday’s game. What has changed since the first month?
JEREMY SMITH: When it came to Ferris, who a lot of people had ranked, something just clicked. They have always bought in to the system, but it seemed like they just believed they could beat anybody. They changed up a few things for that game that Ferris hadn’t seen and I think that caught them off guard. If you look at their losses, they lost to Gonzaga Prep, Mead and Central Valley, they have lost to good teams. Their record is kind of deceptive. They have definitely played better toward the end of the season.
REPORTER: Which of this team’s wins is the most impressive and why?
SMITH: The O’Dea game; to have a team that is big and physical like O’Dea is, a team with that reputation and beat them 34-6. O’Dea got yards in between the 20s, but when University had to stop them, they were really physical. O’Dea was bigger on both sides and U-Hi still stopped them when they needed to. To be able to kick it up like that against a good team was impressive.
REPORTER: Who needs to have a big game for the Titans on offense if they hope to win this game?
SMITH: I think it’s probably Adrian Bonner, the running back. I think it will be really important to get him going to open up their passing game. A couple of the games they won, they didn’t really get him the rushing yards to really open up that passing game. In the last game, he had a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown. If you can get the ball in his hands, he can do a lot of good things. Also, getting quarterback Jeff Beaty comfortable passing the ball is going to be key to keeping Eastside off-balance.
REPORTER: What about on defense?
SMITH: Isaiah Watkins, who is a junior linebacker. He was first team all league. He was injured not too long ago but he’s back out there now. He’s a really difference maker at linebacker. There is a big difference when someone else is out there just in terms of action.
REPORTER: Does University have an X-factor player, or someone that seems to have a knack for changing a game?
SMITH: Austin Flynn is a wide receiver and he’s the big-play threat. When he gets out and gets some space, he’s capable of breaking one at any time. He is a guy you have to really keep a good clamp on. Against Kamiakin, it was Austin Flynn who caught a pass and he broke two or three tackles and weaved for the touchdown to win the game. It was just his will that really did it.
REPORTER: Eastside has a balanced offense behind quarterback Trey Reynolds and running back Henry Jarvis. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Titans’ defense?
SMITH: It seems like in the games they have played well, the team tackling has been amazing. They wrap up, don’t let people break tackles and get to the football. Flynn also plays defensive back and was first team all league on defense, but it seems like they have a little trouble in the passing game. O’Dea rushed for five yards per carry even though they couldn’t get it into the end zone.
REPORTER: Can you talk about the buzz for this game around Spokane and the U-Hi community?
SMITH: For University, it’s huge. When they have made the round of 16, which they have done five times, they have lost. They have had three games no one expected them to win and they just keep winning. In Spokane, people are getting more excited. Spokane is more of a 4A town and 3A doesn’t get a whole lot of credit around here. The buzz is getting bigger, they have done some stuff on the news and in the paper. Football players around the league are excited about it. I think it’s building. But it feels like this should be a bigger story. I think the 3A thing makes people kind of discredit it sometimes. But the excitement is gaining and as we get closer, I think people will get more excited.
REPORTER: University wins if…
SMITH: I think University wins if they can slow Eastside Catholic down on defense. They know they aren’t going to be able to keep them from scoring, but if they can keep them within 20-30 points, I think they have a great chance. If it turns into a score-fest, I think that could be trouble. They have been great at taking advantage of a short field and their punt game was great last week.
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