The Ferndale football team was the better team for most of the first half in a Class 3A first-round showdown with O’Dea in 2016.
Friday night, in a 3A state quarterfinal rematch between the two squads at Civic Stadium, the Golden Eagles were the better team for the first play.
Unfortunately in both cases, that was not nearly enough against an always talented Fighting Irish squad – the only team that’s managed to beat the Golden Eagles in their past 15 games. O’Dea running back Jamyn Patu scored four touchdowns – three by ground and one through the air – and the Fighting Irish ended the Golden Eagles’ season for the second straight year, handing them their first loss of the season in resounding fashion, 42-14.
“It’s always tough to lose a game like this,” Ferndale coach Plenkovich said. “We just got beat by a better team tonight.”
Despite that outcome and the 42-21 loss from 2016, Plenkovich wouldn’t shy away from meeting O’Dea a third straight year in the playoffs, saying, “We’d love the opportunity.”
Plenkovich knew his team was facing a big challenge, though, and it wasn’t just the large bodies the Irish (10-1) trotted out on both lines, though they definitley played a gigantic role Friday. O’Dea is well-coached and loaded with talent up and down the roster.
But Ferndale (11-1) got the first big break of the game, when Gader Fox pounced on a fumble at the O’Dea 28 on the opening kickoff.
Unfortunately, Ferndale’s next four plays netted only two 3-yard running plays, a pair of incompletions and a turnover on downs at the 22.
The Golden Eagles also got the second big break of the game, as after the turnover on downs, O’Dea marched to the Ferndale 3, but another lost fumble recovered by Gabe Zwade kept the score knotted at zero.
And that’s when the Irish took control of the game.
After nearly catching Jacob Broselle in the end zone for a safety on third down and forcing a punt, it took the Irish only three plays to go 55 yards, capped off by Patu’s 38-yard cutback run to the end zone.
Patu finished off O’Dea’s next drive, an eight-play, 63-yard jaunt, with a 5-yard TD run, as it quickly became apparent that Ferndale was facing a completely different challenge than it had seen in the season’s first 11 weeks.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage,” Plenkovich said. “That’s something that hasn’t happened to us all year, but they’re very talented up front.”
Patu added an 11-yard TD pass from Paulo Banchero on the next Irish drive, as he continued to squrim free of would-be Golden Eagle tacklers time after time. Patu, who would add a third rushing TD in the second half, finished the game with 182 yards on 18 carries, including 111 yards in the first half, against a Ferndale defense that had allowed just 25 total rushing yards in its first two playoff victories over Ballard and Bethel.
“They had backs when they went up against one guy were breaking tackles,” Plenkovich said. “We didn’t get enough hats to the football, but give them credit to their guys up front for opening running lanes.”
The Ferndale offense, meanwhile struggled to get much of anything going, as it did not manage a first down in the first 11 1/2 and produced just 44 yards of total offense in the first half.
Trailing 21-0 at the break, Ferndale got its first serious drive of the game going on the opening possession of the second half, as Bryan Ebe carried them to a trio of first downs – the same number the Golden Eagles managed in the entire first half. But Emonte Scott ended the threat with an interception at the O’Dea 12.
It wasn’t until Ebe caught a 28-yard TD pass from James Hinson with 8:44 left in the game that Ferndale got on the board. Ebe, who picking up for injured star running back Cole Semu, added an 8-yard TD run with 3:38 remaining and finished with 71 yards on 14 carries.
Semu, who supported his teammates from a wheelchair on the sideline, is one of 17 seniors listed on Ferndale’s roster.
“Our leadershinp from them all year was outstanding,” Plenkovich said. “The tone they set in the offseason, we don’t get to the posteason without that leadership and they way they played all year. ... It’s always tough losing a senior group, but this was a special one.”