BELLEVUE — Michael Kneip insists that all those Bellevue High School football teams he played on, including four consecutive state titles from 2008-11 before he went to the University of Washington, were not the most talented teams — despite popular perception and having future NFL players Myles Jack and Budda Baker on some of those rosters.
He says there was a level of competitiveness they had. And after the fifth-ranked Class 3A Wolverines lost 24-7 Friday night at home against frequent Class 4A powerhouse Camas, Kneip’s message to the Bellevue program he now coaches was clear.
“We’re just needing to get to the point where we’re the most physical team on the field, regardless of our size and weight and that stuff,” Kneip said.
But Friday night it was Camas (4-0) displaying its physicality, with Jacques Badolato-Birdsell running for 137 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries behind his mammoth offensive line.
That puts Bellevue’s record at 2-2 entering KingCo 3A/2A play for the first time since 2009, when its two losses were against Katy of Texas and Grant of California, not Central Valley of Spokane and Camas near Vancouver.
This is after Bellevue traveled to Camas last year for a first meeting between these two programs and scored 21 unanswered points late to win 38-35.
Badolato-Birdsell, Camas’ junior who moved to Washington from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011, ensured there’d be no repeat Bellevue comeback. He gave the Papermakers a 17-point lead with 10:44 remaining on his 6-yard touchdown run.
“We wanted to come into this year on a revenge tour,” Badolato-Birdsell said. “We weren’t happy with what happened last year. So this means a lot. It means we can win it all. We just have to keep improving day in and day out.
“But this is another check on the revenge tour, and we just have to keep going.”
Last season was the first time in eight years Camas didn’t reach the playoffs.
But Kneip was so impressed Friday with Camas’ discipline in limiting Bellevue’s wing-T offensive attack, though Joby Schneider ran for 183 yards on 33 carries with the Wolverines’ lone touchdown, that afterward he proclaimed Camas as the best team in the state.
“They’re not the most talented team, but they’re the best team in the state and the best-coached team in the state,” Kneip said. “Their kids were so disciplined. They don’t budge. The margin for error against a team like that that’s so well coached is so small.”
Bellevue sat with a quick 7-0 deficit when Camas’ Tyler Forner returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
And just when Bellevue busted some breakaway runs to get to Camas’ 3-yard line, Schneider and quarterback Bryson Sleeper botched a handoff in the downpour and Camas recovered.
The Papermakers capitalized with a 95-yard drive capped by Forner’s second touchdown.
Bellevue stole the momentum when Schneider broke loose for a 33-yard touchdown with just 22 seconds remaining in the first half to make it 14-7, which was reminiscent of last season when the Wolverines used a big TD drive to end the half on its way to that win in Camas.
But the Wolverines got nothing in the second half against Camas’ defense, with the dagger coming when Logan Silva corralled Sleeper for a fourth-down sack at the Papermakers’ 36 with 6:30 to play.
“We just got to be better coached, we got to finish drives and we got to make things happen,” Kneip said. “We’ll be good. We’ll reload and we’ll get better from this.”