TACOMA – The Eastside Catholic Crusaders expected this time to be different. They trusted they could do what no other football team had been able to in 53 previous games: beat unbeatable Bellevue.
“We came in confident,” sophomore quarterback Harley Kirsch said.
But for the second straight year, the Crusaders came up well short in the Class 3A state championship game as the nationally ranked Wolverines rolled to a 52-20 victory Friday night at the Tacoma Dome.
It was the same 32-point spread as last year’s 35-3 final. But this one seemed to hurt more, especially because the Crusaders hurt themselves with four turnovers.
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“We didn’t play very good,” coach Jeremy Thielbahr said. “We’ve got to play better and I hope we learned from these mistakes. … To get to this Dome, you’ve got to have a lot of heart, a lot of fight and a lot of will. I believe in this team, I believe in our kids. I’m sorry to see these seniors go without a championship. To be frank, shoot, we just needed to play better.”
Eastside Catholic (11-3) got back to Tacoma despite returning only a handful of starters from last year’s team.
“It’s a great run we had,” Thielbahr said. “Nobody expected us to be back at the Dome except us. We’ve just got to compete at a higher level, more consistently against a great (team).
“They should be national champions again. That’s a great ballclub. They’ve got to be starting to get bored. But we’re going to keep hounding and chasing and going after them. They set the bar pretty high.”
Sky high. This was the Wolverines’ sixth straight championship and 11th over the past 13 years, stretching their state-record winning streak to 54 games.
“I’d like another shot at them,” Thielbahr said. “I know our kids would.”
“Now we’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and see what we’ve got to do to get back here and just take that final step to win the big one,” Kirsch said.
These back-to-back losses should serve as added motivation.
“A lot of the guys returning, I think they’ll remember this, last year and this year,” Kirsch said. “I think next year’s going to be a great season. We’re going to do our best to make it the best that we can make it. And hopefully we’ll win a state championship, someday.”
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