Washington’s Top 50 high school football teams: Electrifying Jason Brown, powerful Mark Nabou leading the way for No. 2 O’Dea

SBLive is previewing the Top 50 high school teams in Washington ahead of the fall 2021 season. Here’s an inside look at the O’Dea Fighting Irish of the 3A Metro League – the No. 2 team in our countdown.

SPRING 2021 IN REVIEW

5-2 in 3A Metro League (first place).

COACH’S RESUME

  • Monte Kohler, 37th season.
  • Overall record: 352-58.
  • Coordinators: Offense – by-committee (pro-style); Defense – Joe Cronin (even front).

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

TE Quinn Carolan

RB/LB Taj Dyles

DL Milton Hopkins

DB Hayden McDonald

LB K’son Mika

OL Owen Prentice

LB Styles Siva Tu’u

RETURNING STARTERS

Offense – 4. Defense – 2.

TOP PLAYERS

OL/DL Isendre “Papa” Ahfua, 6-5, 330, soph.

OL Oliver Braitsch, 6-2, 245, sr.

RB Jason Brown 5-10, 185, soph.

RB/DB Khalil Holiday 5-11, 150, sr.

QB John Kohler, 5-11, 165, sr.

OL/DL Mark Nabou, 6-4, 330, sr.

RB/LB/DB Zach Newsom, 5-8, 200, sr. 

OL/DL Jonias Utu, 5-9, 250, sr.

THREE TO SEE

Isendre “Papa” Ahfua, offensive guard

Is he the next great O’Dea lineman? Schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Michigan have lined up to offer the hulking teenager after he played just a few games as a ninth grader. 

Jason Brown, running back

Broke Myles Gaskin’s single-game touchdown record, and was named as a WSFCA first team all-state RB as a ninth grader. Then, the likes of Washington, Florida State, Oregon and Oregon State swooped in and offered. 

Mark Nabou, offensive tackle

Highly sought-after Power-5 prospect is among the state’s most immovable forces at “strong” tackle. With UW-bound Owen Prentice gone, he becomes the line’s vocal leader now, too.

FALL SEASON OUTLOOK

Longtime coach Monte Kohler is the state’s winningest active football coach, and a four-time WIAA state champ – leading the school to its first 3A title in 1991.

Even he still had to learn how to coach a team under pandemic-induced circumstances on the fly last spring. Fresh off of a 13-month offseason, O’Dea, the preseason 3A favorite, was blanked by Eastside Catholic in the season opener.

Kohler makes no bones about it. The Fighting Irish were unprepared. Blame it on the coach, he said.

“It was just ugly football,” Kohler said. “We went back to what we do, and by the end of the season, we were playing pretty damn well.”

With that in mind, he hopes a more normal offseason (though still not fully normal) will bode well on opening night, despite his team replacing all but six starters. 

Owen Prentice, Milton Hopkins and a whole host of program fixtures are gone. But the Irish will be strong where they need it most, returning three-year starting tackle Mark Nabou, a highly sought after Power-5 prospect who must go from on-the-field leader to a commanding voice in the locker room.

The 6-4, 330-pound Nabou, 5-9, 250-pound interior lineman Jonias Utu and 6-2, 245-pound center Oliver Braistch carry experience, which is valuable for up-and-comers such 6-5, 330-pound sophomore Isendre “Papa” Ahfua, who has the top college in the country bidding for his talents, even though he has yet to play a full varsity season.

“If we stay healthy on defense, by midseason we should be a pretty good defensive football team,” Kohler said. “Offensively, I guess we’re still trying to figure our way out.

“Hopefully we can build an offensive line. If you know anything about O’Dea football, that’s where we live and die, is up front.”

That offensive will be paving the way for electric running back Jason Brown, whose sudden rise as one of the state’s most productive rushers has minted the team’s ground game for years to come.

Most questions about this team should be answered in short order, since the Irish prelude the vaunted Metro League slate with a three-game set against Class 4A contenders – Union, Kennedy Catholic and Lake Stevens. 

“You get exposed, find your weaknesses, find your football players,” Kohler said. “I hope we’re not 0-3. We very well could be, but we’ll be better when we get on the other side of this schedule into league play.”

FALL 2021 SCHEDULE

  • Sept. 3 at Union
  • Sept. 10 vs. Kennedy Catholic
  • Sept. 17 vs. Lake Stevens
  • Sept. 24 vs. Rainier Beach
  • Oct. 1 at Seattle Prep
  • Oct. 15 at Ballard
  • Oct. 22 vs. Garfield

(Featured photo by Vince Miller)

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