With his players kneeling around him, Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff finally let his team know where they stood. "I'll tell you right now,"...
TACOMA — With his players kneeling around him, Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff finally let his team know where they stood.
“I’ll tell you right now,” the usually reserved Goncharoff said. “Best team in the country.”
Goncharoff is not prone to hyperbole. In fact, normally he’s quite the opposite. But after watching the Wolverines cap a perfect season with a 35-3 win Friday against Eastside Catholic in the Class 3A state championship game, Goncharoff didn’t hold back.
Not after winning Bellevue’s fifth straight state championship, 40th straight game and 10th state title in 12 years. The Wolverines had entered the night as the second-ranked team by ESPN and Sports Illustrated, but they left thinking they should be ranked even higher.
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“I agree with Butch 200 percent,” senior lineman Darien Freeman said. “I wish we could go out and play the No. 1 team in the country. I really wish we could.”
The win on Friday wasn’t inevitable, because no outcome in sports ever is, but it sure felt that way? The Wolverines had been just too good, too dominant, to suddenly have that all fall apart.
Their dominance extended beyond their 14-0 record. It was the way they thoroughly handled opponents, pulling away with an explosive offense in some games and beating teams into submission defensively in others.
Yet no season can be perfect without a state championship. And Bellevue, whose five straight titles are a WIAA record, certainly fought for this one, despite the margin of victory.
“We knew this was going to be a war,” Goncharoff said.
Eastside Catholic (13-1) nipped at Bellevue’s heels in the first half, but the Crusaders made one glaring mistake. They punted to Budda Baker, who promptly showed why he is one of the state’s most explosive players.
He ripped through the middle of the field with those long strides that make him such a targeted prospect for 71-yard punt return touchdown. That gave Bellevue a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
It would be the last time Eastside Catholic kicked anywhere near him.
“Right when I got the ball I saw a huge hole,” Baker said. “That’s all I had to do.”
Eastside Catholic didn’t fizzle away. The Crusaders’ Jacob Gai kicked a 33-yard field goal that cut Bellevue’s lead to 7-3 in the first quarter.
Quarterback Jack Meggs’ 29-yard touchdown run put Bellevue up 14-3 in the second quarter, but Meggs fumbled on Bellevue’s next drive and Eastside Catholic’s Peter Kimble recovered deep in Wolverine territory.
But Bellevue’s defense, which allowed only one touchdown in the first three quarters against 13 Washington opponents this season, held Eastside Catholic scoreless.
The Crusaders wouldn’t threaten much after that.
Meggs has picked apart teams with his passing at times this season, but he was Bellevue’s most productive option on the ground, rushing for a team-high 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Baker and Myles Jack then added a little explosiveness: First with a 61-yard touchdown run from Baker and later with a 95-yard touchdown run from Jack.
That was more than enough points to give Bellevue its fifth straight state title.
“That’s unheard of, man,” Goncharoff said. “It’s amazing because it’s a grind, but this group is resilient.”
Now this team will find its place among the best Bellevue has ever produced. The Wolverines allowed just 72 points all season. They allowed just 13 points in their five playoff games and beat teams by more than 40 points per game.
Senior linebacker Sean Constantine has won four titles at Bellevue and grew up watching the 2004 team that won a state title and ended De La Salle’s famed 151-game winning streak.
“The 2004 team has always been our standard that we were trying to get to,” he said. “Hopefully one day Butch comes back and talks about the 2012 team, too.”
Long after the game, Goncharoff slowly walked across the field carrying the championship trophy, which will settle next to all the others Bellevue has collected over the years. But led by a senior class that played a huge hand in winning three championships, this trophy might carry more weight than some of the others.
“They’ve taken on all comers,” Goncharoff said. “As a senior class, they’re the benchmark we tell our young guys they have to live up to.”
Bell — Budda Baker 71 punt return (Ryan Bordner kick), 9:28.
EC — Jacob Gai 33 field goal, 11:08.
Bell — Jack Meggs 29 run (Bordner kick), 9:07.
Bell — Baker 61 run (Bordner kick), 4:49.
Bell — Meggs 6 run (Bordner kick), 7:56.
Bell — Myles Jack 95 run (Alexander Kruse kick), 4:50.
|Time of Possession||17:41||30:19|
Rushing — Bellevue, Jack Meggs 8-108, Myles Jack 6-105, Budda Baker 5-93, John Nguyen 7-12, Dakota Jones 1-0, Justus Rogers 1-(-3). Eastside Catholic, Trey Reynolds 23-41, Henry Jarvis 9-36, Elisha Pa’Aga 4-17, Brandon Wellington 5-1.
Passing — Bellevue, Jack Meggs 4-7-0-35. Eastside Catholic, Trey Reynolds 13-25-0-133, Peter Kimble 0-3-1-0.
Receiving — Bellevue, Scott Whiting 2-38, John Nguyen 1-(-1), Budda Baker 1-(-2). Eastside Catholic, Colt Boit 6-34, Henry Jarvis 3-9, Johnny Michalik 2-59, Hayden Meier 1-23, Justin Musser 1-8.