The Bellevue High School football team is back in the championship.
And this year more different than ever.
The second-ranked Wolverines will play in their 14th consecutive state championship after routing No. 7 Bishop Blanchet, 56-28, in a 3A state semifinal Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
But for the first time, Bellevue (11-1) enters having lost the previous title game instead of winning. Instead of a nation-best 67-game win streak, it enters with an 11-game win streak after losses to Eastside Catholic in last year’s state championship and the season-opener against Bishop Gorman.
“We’ve got to play a complete football game,” Wolverines coach Butch Goncharoff said. “Because if we do, we’ll be scary.”
Bellevue advances to face top-ranked defending state champion Eastside Catholic for the fourth year in a row.
It didn’t take long for the first touchdown to be scored. Wolverines senior defensive lineman Marquis Deweert scored eight seconds into Bishop Blanchet’s first offensive snap, recovering a fumbled handoff and running it into the end zone.
But the Wolverines struggled with turnovers in the first, too, fumbling the ball away four times.
“We can’t play that way,” Goncharoff said. “We can’t make that many mental breakdowns and penalties and turn the ball over four times—you can’t play that way.”
Those turnovers helped Bishop Blanchet, which beat 3A SPSL champion Sumner in the first round, keep the score close early, with Clinton Allen Jr. catching a 23-yard TD pass to cut the Braves’ deficit to 28-21.
After an animated halftime speech from Goncharoff, who is normally more calm and reserved, the Wolverines outscored Blanchet 21-7 in the second half.
Bellevue’s front five wore down the Braves’ defense, creating holes for senior running back Ercle Terrell and quarterback Justus Rogers. Rogers gained 104 yards on nine carries and threw for 171 yards.
Bellevue’s defense was lethal, forcing Bishop Blanchet to commit seven turnovers (five interceptions, two fumbles) and often placed the Wolverines offense in great field position throughout the game.
But Goncharoff was more concerned on what his Wolverines need to improve on if it hopes to enact some revenge against Eastside Catholic next week.
“To win our championship,” Goncharoff said “mistakes are going to be made but you can’t have as many self-inflicted wounds. They’re good enough to be here athletically, but now they need to take the next step.”