High school football programs in the South Sound just can’t seem to solve the Bellevue Wolverines in the postseason.
Since Bellevue’s first appearance in the state playoffs in 1977, the program is a stunning 19-3 against against South Sound teams in tournament play.
The Wolverines’ last loss to a local team was to Tumwater in the opening round of the 1993 state playoffs — a year the T-Birds went on to win one of their five state titles.
Saturday afternoon, it was Yelm’s program that saw its historic run in the Class 3A state playoffs end against Bellevue.
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After the No. 12 seed Tornados took an early three-touchdown lead, the fourth-seeded Wolverines methodically clawed their way back, shut out Yelm in the final three quarters, and ran away with a 37-20 win to remain undefeated and advance to the state semifinals.
This is just the second time in school history Yelm (8-4) has advanced to the state playoffs. The Tornados last made it this far in 1987, and that run also ended in the quarterfinals.
“We were hoping to start fast and stay fast,” Yelm coach Jason Ronquillo said. “We did that. We started fast. We met goal No. 1.
“But, they kind of woke up, got to our speed, and we struggled to stop them.”
Bellevue’s wing-T offense gashed Yelm for 357 yards on 61 carries, and averaged 5.9 yards per attempt.
Alex Reid led the way for the Wolverines, collecting 169 yards on 20 carries, and scored Bellevue’s opening touchdown.
And Drew Fowler, who has Division I offers from 18 schools, scored the Wolverines’ final four touchdowns on runs of 7, 40, 4 and 3 yards as Bellevue (12-0) slowly and effectively picked away at Yelm’s defense.
“We’ve had the benefit that we’ve repped it for so long,” Fowler said of the signature offense that has earned the Wolverines 10 state titles — excluding the two that were vacated for recruiting violations.
“Our junior program does a little mimic of the wing-T, and we’re just comfortable with it. I’ve been running it since I was in the sixth grade. No one can really (practice) the true speed we rep it at. Scout teams just don’t do it justice.”
Yelm forced just one stop on defense before the Wolverines dug out of an early deficit and rallied for five unanswered TDs in the final three quarters.
“Ultimately, offensively, they’re a good football team,” Ronquillo said. “They’re really hard to stop. We battled as long as we could.”
For the opening quarter, it appeared Yelm’s historic season might continue.
The Tornados scored on the game’s first drive after a 45-yard return by Sylas Franklin on the opening kick immediately set them up in Wolverines’ territory.
Yelm quarterback Kyle Robinson connected with Franklin on a 17-yard touchdown pass six plays later.
After forcing a quick punt, the Tornados capitalized again, and Carson Amendt scooted around his left tackle for a 3-yard score.
A successful onside kick recovery game Yelm short field again, and Amendt dove in for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Tornados a 20-0 lead with 1:07 remaining in the opening quarter.
But, Yelm didn’t score again.
Bellevue responded with Reid’s 3-yard scoring run on the next drive, and Fowler scored twice before the break to give the Wolverines a lead they never lost.
Robinson was picked off on four of Yelm’s final seven possessions, and was sacked in the end zone for a safety in the fourth, which capped scoring.
“We’ve been in tough situations all year,” Fowler said. “I think we were tripping over ourselves a little big at the start, so we just had to calm down, look within ourselves, start getting back to our routine, our basics, everything we’ve practiced since June, and just start over again, really.”
Bellevue will meet top-seeded Eastside Catholic (10-1) in the semifinals next week, while Yelm’s season is over.
“I’m really proud of the team that we put together this year,” Ronquillo said. “I’m really proud of the guys. I’m proud of the senior class — it’s going to be sad to see them go. They really made a great run for us the last four years that they’ve been in the program.”
Despite the season-ending loss, Yelm had a large group of supporters make the trip north, who stayed to cheer the players on as they climbed the steps out of Bellevue’s stadium.
“I think it starts with small-town football,” Ronquillo said. “We just love football in Yelm, and being successful helps with that. They’ve been great all year. I love the following. I hope they continue it next year.”
NO. 12 YELM
NO. 4 BELLEVUE
Y – Sylas Franklin 17 pass from Kyle Robinson (Cody Frye kick)
Y – Carson Amendt 3 run (Frye kick)
Y – Amendt 1 run (kick failed)
B – Alex Reid 3 run (Jed Michael kick)
B – Drew Fowler 7 run (Michael kick)
B – Fowler 40 run (Michael kick)
B – Fowler 4 run (Michael kick)
B – Fowler 3 run (Michael kick)
B – Safety
Passing: Y – Robinson 15-30-4-139. B – Joey Echigoshima 2-5-0-43.
Rushing: Y – Amendt 9-35; Robinson 8-24; Austen Osso 1-0. B – Reid 20-169; Joby Schneider 19-83; Fowler 12-72; Echigoshima 8-33; Dan Marino 2-0.
Receiving: Y – Kodee Gifford 9-73; Franklin 5-54; Amendt 1-12. B – Jalen Love 2-43.