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Originally published November 23, 2013 at 8:28 PM | Page modified November 23, 2013 at 9:36 PM

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Eastside Catholic holds off Meadowdale to reach semifinals | 3A football

Seattle Times staff reporter

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astside Catholic wanted the Tacoma Dome. The Tacoma Dome is exactly what it got.

The Crusaders fought, battled and barely eked out a 21-16 win over Meadowdale on Saturday night in the 3A state quarterfinals, punching their ticket to the semifinals. Eastside Catholic plays Metro division foe O’Dea in the semifinals next week at the Tacoma Dome.

“We wanted the Tacoma Dome, now we got it,” head coach Jeremy Thielbahr screamed in jubilation as his players kneeled around him on the Memorial Stadium turf.

The victory wasn’t secured until Evile Kalaniuvalu intercepted Jeremiah Evans’ pass inside the red zone with 1:41 left in the game. Three kneel-downs later and Eastside Catholic (10-2) had its second straight trip to the state semifinals in the book.

The game was put into the hands of EC’s defense after Meadowdale (7-5) stopped Eastside Catholic on downs at the Maverick 31-yard line. Malik Braxton, who rushed for 205 yards on 30 carries, put Meadowdale in Eastside Catholic territory with a 23-yard run. But four plays later, Evans threw into double coverage and Kalaniuvalu came up with the interception.

Eastside Catholic appeared to have pulled away when Harley Kirsch hit Brandon Wellington on a wheel route for a 69-yard touchdown to go up 21-9 with 1:25 left in the third quarter. But Meadowdale refused to go away, using a stout defensive front to limit the Crusaders to just 42 yards rushing on the night.

Tight end Charlie White put Meadowdale within a touchdown with a tremendous catch in the fourth, pulling down a 13-yard catch in the end zone despite triple coverage. The extra point cut the Eastside Catholic lead to 21-16.

“Our kids battled to the end,” Meadowdale head coach Mike Don said. “We knew we were playing good football late in the year and that we deserved to be here, and our kids proved it tonight.”

Kirsch threw for 386 yards and two touchdowns to lead Eastside Catholic past Meadowdale in the playoffs for the second straight season.

Next up is O’Dea, which beat the Crusaders 63-45 in October.

“We’re about to go face O’Dea again in the semis,” Thielbahr said.

“That’s what we wanted. We wanted to play them again, we wanted to battle the best ... we’re excited to move on in the playoffs and play in the Tacoma Dome against our rival — Mountain division rival — O’Dea.”

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