For one quarter, Ferndale looked like the state’s best offensive Class 3A team.
For one half, the Golden Eagles looked like the state’s finest defensive 3A squad.
In the second half, however, O’Dea looked very much like the state’s top-ranked 3A team.
The No. 1 Fighting Irish (11-0) scored six consecutive touchdowns – five in the second half – in a 42-21 win in the opening round of the state tournament at Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 11.
“I told the guys we have nothing to be ashamed about,” said Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich of the school’s 21st state tournament appearance. “Our guys gave a great effort. The scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story about that.”
Ferndale senior Ben Broselle scored on runs of 58 and 38 yards in the opening quarter and finished with 183 yards on 17 carries on a night when the fifth-ranked Golden Eagles (9-2) amassed 348 total yards, only seven behind O’Dea’s total.
But Ferndale’s third touchdown, a 10-yard pass from James Hinson to Justice Powell, came with 2:48 remaining following a versatile O’Dea offensive display featuring the depth-laden team’s usual cast of six ball carriers.
“We were up 14-0 with a good chance to make it 21-0,” Plenkovich said, referring to the Ferndale fumble on O’Dea’s 22 recovered by Jack Pauly for the Irish.
O’Dea’s only first-half touchdown, a 9-yard pass from Warren King to Sam Sanchez, capped a 71-yard, 12-play drive late in the second quarter, providing an ominous hint of the Fighting Irish’s muscle on the line.
On the opening drive of the second half, O’Dea star Jamyn Patu took a pitch left 68 yards for a score.
On Ferndale’s second play of its first opportunity after halftime, O’Dea’s Kyle Hollabaugh scooped up a fumble and returned it 34 yards to score, snapping a short-lived 14-all tie.
Ferndale responded well, driving 72 yards including a 35-yard sprint by Broselle and a 37-yard dash by Powell. But reliable conversion and kickoff man Patrick Hegarty saw his first field goal attempt of the season blocked by Dominique Gates, and that seemed to take some life out of the Golden Eagles.
O’Dea followed with another long drive, 80 yards in eight plays, to score on Patu’s 12-yard run for a 28-14 lead. The fifth consecutive Irish TD soon followed on a 37-yard pass from King to Quinton Lewis. On the ensuing kickoff, O’Dea’s Parker Dana joined in the fumble recovery touchdown celebrations with a 19-yard return on a bobbled kickoff for his team’s sixth touchdown in a row.
“I told our guys that we could play with anyone in this tournament, and I truly believe that,” Plenkovich said. “It was a tough (random) draw ... but I felt we played our best defensive half of the season (allowing 117 total yards).”
Winterhawk Leighton, Ferndale’s two-way senior line standout who hopes to play in college, said the team had every reason to feel proud.
“Nobody expected this from us,” he said of the Golden Eagles’ strong season despite a lack of experience at numerous positions. “That felt like a real good first half.”
Fern – Ben Broselle 58 run (Patrick Hegarty kick)
Fern – Broselle 38 run (Hegarty kick)
O’Dea – Sam Sanchez 9 pass from Warren King (Stephen Powell kick)
O’Dea – Jamyn Patu 68 run (Powell kick)
O’Dea – Kyle Hollabaugh 34 fumble return (Powell kick)
O’Dea – Patu 12 run (Powell kick)
O’Dea – Quinton Lewis 37 pass from King (Powell kick)
O’Dea – Parker Dana 19 fumble return (Powell kick)
Fern – Justice Powell 10 pass from James Hinson (Hegarty kick
RUSHING – Ferndale: Ben Broselle 17-183, Cole Semu 9-41, Justice Powell 12-83, James Hinson 1-2. O’Dea: Jamyn Patu 11-137, Hunter Franco 11-55, Warren King 8-42, Parker Dana 7-36, Connor Gregoire 2-14, Mark Tafia 3-6, Jason Wong 1-15.
PASSING – Ferndale: James Hinson 3-11-0-39. O’Dea: Warren King 4-5-0-68.
RECEIVING – Ferndale: Broselle 2-29, Powell 1-10. O’Dea: Quinton Lewis 2-50, Mark Tafia 1-9. Sam Sanchez 1-9.