I had a chance to chat with Eastside Catholic head coach Jeremy Thielbahr this morning. The Crusaders are coming off a 42-35 win over Marysville-Pilchuck last week and will face Meadowdale on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. at Seattle Memorial Stadium.
As Thielbahr notes, Eastside Catholic played Meadowdale and then Marysville-Pilchuck in the playoffs a year ago. That flipped this year, with Marysville-Pilchuck preceding Meadowdale. So, obviously lots of familiarity for Eastside Catholic and Meadowdale. Thielbahr specifically mentioned running back Malik Braxton as a threat. You can read more about Braxton in this Northwest Elite Index story. Eastside Catholic did have to face dynamic Marysville-Pilchuck running back Austin Joyner a week ago, so we’ll see if that has prepared them for Braxton.
Here’s the interview with Thielbahr:
On last week’s win: I think we feel really confident. That was a great football we beat. Got incredible skill players. We had to tackle. We had to sit where we were supposed to sit, and we did that. I think playing a tough nonconference schedule helped us. You look at the Lake City win, which was in the last minute. We beat them and they’re a pretty strong team. They beat Chiawana, over there in 4A. You look at the Eastlake loss, which could have gone either way. And you look at the O’Dea loss. I think our kids learned something about tackling a pretty good running back. All those lessons over the season have paid dividends. We were able to go up to Marysville-Pilchuck and win a very tightly contested ballgame against a season-laden, well-coached football team. Our team’s got confidence. We’ve got a lot of young guys playing, but our old guys are leading in a positive manner. Anything can happen in the playoffs. We always play our best football in the playoffs.
On a possible rematch with O’Dea in the semifinals: I think it would be a lot of fun to have two Metro Mountain teams facing off for semifinals. When we lost to O’Dea, I said one of our goals get back to playing them in the semis and get another shot at them. There’s no doubt about that. It’s a heated rivalry and our kids want another shot at them. I think we’ve got to get past a very tough Meadowdale team. We can’t take anything for granted. We got to take every game as they come. This is going to be a battle. We played Meadowdale last year. I think it’s a little funny, it’s reverse order from last year. We played Meadowdale then Marysville-Pilchuck last year. This year we’re playing Marysville-Pilchuck then Meadowdale. We know that Meadowdale is an extremely good ball club. They had some injuries and had some losses that were tough. Watching those tapes, those ball games could have gone either way. We know we’ve got a great battle on our hands this Saturday at Memorial and we got to take each day as it comes and keep making plays. We got a lot of young kids playing and they got to grow up. I think they are making strides and making steps. It’s exciting to see what this season could become.
On if Meadowdale is a similar team to last season: They’re similar. They’re similar defensively. Offensively, they’ve got an incredible running back, Malik Braxton. He’s explosive every time he touches the ball. They’ve got a quarterback who’s slinging it all over the place. They run an up-tempo offense. They get in bigger sets, heavier sets. They really have kind of some problems on defense. They’re extremely good on defense. We’ve got to do a great job on offense of taking care of football and moving the ball. They’re a solid football team. Well coached and well prepared every week. We’re always just playing ourselves. How much better we can get from week to week and what we can improve on week to week. It’s another one of those tests this week and see how well we can play. They provide some problems for us offensively and defensively. We’re going to have to try to solve those problems throughout the game and game planning. It’s an exciting week. Meadowdale, they came into our house last year and gave us fits. The final score was not what the game was. We had to score on a 4th-down and six. We had to throw in the back of the end zone on a scramble to win the game really, to put it out of reach. So we know that this is going to be a hard-fought ball game, this is not going to be a walk in the park. Our kids are ready for that challenge. Every week is a challenge for us.