After a promising start, the No. 7 Bellevue Wolverines saw the No. 2 Eastside Catholic Crusaders pull away for a 50-21 victory in the 3A state quarterfinals on Nov. 23 at Memorial Stadium in Seattle.
After the Wolverines’ season ended at the hands of the Crusaders for the second-straight year, Bellevue head coach Michael Kneip said the loss falls on him, not the players.
“The culture is there, now it’s all about execution,” Kneip said. “That’s on me. If I can’t do it, they can find someone else who can hopefully do it, because these kids are too good not to get the reward.”
Kneip said he is proud of his players because of their character, which is more important than wins and losses. The character and hard work was especially apparent with the seniors that played their final game with the Wolverines.
“I really love these seniors so much,” Kneip said. “I can’t say enough about our kids. They’re such good kids, I’ll take Joby (Schneider), Henry (Hawblitzel) and Alex (Reid) over anyone in the state.”
Bellevue opened the scoring on the first play of the second quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run from quarterback Bryson Sleeper to give the Wolverines a 7-0 lead over the Crusaders.
The dynamic Eastside Catholic offense quickly regained momentum, scoring three touchdowns in less than six minutes to take a 22-7 lead into halftime.
The Crusaders scored again on their opening drive of the second half, with quarterback Kobe Muasau connecting with wide receiver Gee Scott Jr. for a 42-yard touchdown to extend their lead to 30-7, after a two-point conversion. Scott finished the game with three receiving touchdowns.
Bellevue responded with a touchdown of its own, a 32-yard touchdown run from running back Dan Marino. The Wolverines’ point-after attempt was blocked, keeping the Crusaders up 30-13.
Eastside Catholic would extend its lead to 36-13, after Crusaders running back Gio Ursino scored a 6-yard rushing touchdown with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
The Wolverines scored early in the fourth quarter after Sleeper threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joshua Goates on a fourth-and-5, followed by a successful two-point conversion to make it 36-21.
The Crusaders pulled away in the final frame, with Muasau throwing his fourth touchdown pass of the night to tight end Jaylahn Tuimoloau and another rushing touchdown from Ursino to give Eastside Catholic a convincing 50-21 victory.
In his final football game with the Wolverines, Schneider said there were plenty of life lessons to learn from the loss.
“We definitely built character,” Schneider said. “I don’t know about football-wise, but life-wise. This may be my last football game, but I can implement it into other things in life.”
Schneider said it didn’t really sink in that his time on the team had come to an end until the final buzzer ended.
“I can’t even begin to explain how much these boys mean to me,” Schneider said. “Waking up every single day, looking forward to practice at five o’clock. Those two hours mean everything to me, every single day. The games are only a small portion of the season.”
The statistic that stood out to Kneip about this season wasn’t rushing yards or tackles, it was his team’s attendance at practice.
“We had 30 guys who missed one day or less from August 1st, to November 23rd, last year we had eight,” Kneip said. “That’s a stat I’m really proud of. That’s cool, so you definitely know you’re moving the dial up a little bit.”