By RayJaun Stelly, The Seattle Medium
Garfield entered Friday night’s matchup 4-0 against powerhouse Eastside Catholic. Both teams came into the game with big wins against their first Metro League opponents last week, and looked to continue their winning ways.
With an undefeated record on the line, Garfield looked to get one of the biggest wins of their season. But Eastside Catholic displayed their identity from the start.
The Crusaders started on defense and immediately went to work, as they sacked Garfield quarterback E.J. Caminong and did not allow Garfield to establish their rushing attack forcing the Bulldogs to give up the ball on their first possession.
Fueled by the play of their defense, the Crusaders’ offense marched down the field and took an early 7-0 lead just minutes into the first quarter.
The Crusaders continued their momentum after forcing a fumble which was returned for a touchdown by Samuel Burroughs, as they increased their lead to 13-0. After kicking a field goal, the Crusaders went into halftime with a 16-0 lead.
Regardless of score, the Bulldogs’ remained engaged and understood that they’d have to make proper adjustments to turn the game around.
“We had a conversation at halftime on what we needed to do better,” said Garfield’s Denali Dukes. “[We knew we needed to] get in control and get the momentum back on our side.”
The halftime pep talk worked, and the Bulldogs came out in the second half with a renewed sense of confidence and energy.
Dukes forced a fumble and then returned an interception for a touchdown, and in the blink of an eye the Bulldogs had cut the Eastside Catholic lead down to two points, 16-14.
Garfield Head Football Coach Reggie Witherspoon, Jr. was excited about the way his team responded to adversity.
“I love when my defense is better than my offense because they prevent others from scoring,” said Witherspoon. “Our defense has to be the strongest bodies of the 11.”
With only two points separating the teams, the game became a battle of defenses. Both offenses were stagnant, Garfield’s defense as a whole was in sync and Eastside Catholic’s ability to put pressure on the quarterback made things difficult for the Bulldogs.
As the two teams battled back and forth, the game ultimately would come down to the final seconds. With seven seconds on left in regulation, Caminong completed a pass to receiver Jacolby Cochran toward the sideline. However, the played was called back due to a penalty that took Garfield out of field goal range.
With three seconds left, the Bulldogs’ ‘Hail Mary’ attempt was unsuccessful due to a bad hike and led to a Crusaders’ sack as time expired, as Eastside Catholic escaped with a 16-14 win.
Garfield hopes to rebound from their first loss of the season when the face Rainier Beach this week at Memorial Stadium, while Eastside Catholic will play O’Dea.
Witherspoon says that his plan for this week is to get his team to focus on their opponent and not so much on the rivalry.
“We’re focusing on Garfield football and not this rival, it’s another game on our schedule,” said Witherspoon. “The magnitude and energy ahead we cannot get into the hype, we have to play our game.”