HILLSBORO, Ore. — It’s no secret Eastside Catholic is the most talented team in the state of Washington.
But is it also the best team in the Pacific Northwest? Perhaps Friday gave an answer.
The Crusaders rallied off 44 unanswered points after conceding two touchdowns in the first four minutes to beat Central Catholic (Ore.) 44-21 on Friday night at Hillsboro Stadium.
Rams running back Miles Jackson returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for touchdown and popped off a 36-yard touchdown run three minutes later.
“14-0 lead, that’s nothing,” wide receiver Gee Scott Jr. said. “We’ll come back from that.”
Then Eastside Catholic, the top team in the state of Washington, responded with force.
“Our guys who have been playing really well did a good job,” Eastside Catholic coach Dominic Daste said.
Here are five takeaways from the week two showdown between two perennial powers in neighborhood states:
1. Eastside Catholic has a new QB. You might want to remember his name.
In just his second game in an Eastside Catholic uniform, junior transfer quarterback Kobe Muasau was near perfect.
The Hawaii native completed 21 of his 29 pass attempts for 307 yards and three touchdowns opposite an interception.
And his favorite target was Ohio State commit Gee Scott Jr., who caught all three of Muasau’s touchdown passes.
2. Eastside Catholic flipped a switch on defense
The Crusaders didn’t take kindly to giving up 14 points in the game’s first four minutes.
The offense put together 37 points by halftime and 44 total without giving up a point from the Rams. Ayden Hector picked off Central Catholic and returned it back to the Rams’ six yard line. J.T. Tuimoloau blocked a punt, which was returned for a touchdown. The team forced fumbles and denied Central Catholic any points until the game was out of reach.
“I’m proud of the guys for being resilient, coming back, getting back into the game,” Daste said. "Down 14-0 to a really good Central Catholic team is not a lot of fun. But we kept our head down, kept going and played well throughout the whole game.”
3. Gee Scott Jr. gives Ohio State fans another glimpse of what’s to come
Whenever the Crusaders needed a big play, they found the same quick-footed target.
Scott Jr.’s three touchdowns all came on big gain plays — 36, 62 and 19 yards. And at times, the wideout made beating one or two defenders to a ball in the back of the end zone look easy. Scott Jr. had 146 yards on five catches.
He was just that good.
Scott Jr. sees his performance as setting an example for teammates.
“I’m understanding my role as a leader,” Scott Jr. said. “A lot of these guys look to me and feed off my energy. Let’s just say I drop a ball, I mess up on a play, the energy I give off, they feed off of. So I just try to keep the best attitude I can, so I keep my teammates on the straight. That’s my biggest goal.”
4. J.T. Tuimoloau told himself to ‘play free’ — and it paid off
Defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau felt the excitement get to him in week one, and felt himself trying to do too much. Daste felt as much, and challenged his anchor on the D-line to play within himself.
“You want to show what you have,” Tuimoloau said. “I noticed myself going out of my element. Play free, that’s what I always tell myself before the game, especially this game. Play free, play yourself. Let the plays come to you, everything will fit. I trusted coach, trusted the process and did my thing.”
Tuimoloau, who 247 Sports considers the top recruit in the nation from the class of 2021, made his presence felt everywhere. He logged five tackles, two sacks, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt.
And the Crusaders defensive stopped Central Catholic from scoring as the offense put together 44 unanswered points.
Tuimoloau was named defensive player of the game by his coaches.
But Daste’s point rings true. On a team stacked with Division I talent, each player must not work to outshine his teammates.
“I think he wants to do too much at times,” Daste said. “Somebody like him can do a lot, but he has to do his 1/11th and he did a great job tonight.”
5. Road trip important for first-year head coach
While many teams around the state aren’t traveling further than a quick bus ride away for the preseason, Daste embraces the early season travel.
The Crusaders took charter buses down to Portland, stayed in hotels together and practiced at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, where the team also got a tour.
“When we can get away and just be by ourselves, I think there’s a lot to that,” Daste said. “We’re bunkered down in a hotel, it’s just us, we’re on the road taking that bunker mentality.”
The Crusaders return home next week to host Pinnacle (Ariz.).