Bellevue High’s football squad was one win away from treading on the Tacoma Dome turf at the 3A state championship game, but top-ranked Eastside Catholic cut the Wolverines’ journey short on Saturday at Pop Keeney Stadium in Bothell.
In the semifinals, the Crusaders (11-1) handed Bellevue its first loss of the season, 41-3. A 13th victory wasn’t meant to be as the locals finished their season with a 12-1 record.
Bellevue battled just as it did all season, but couldn’t register a comeback win this week.
“Our guys have shown a lot of heart. We didn’t get chippy on them, we played with good sportsmanship. We finished our game the only way we knew how — be physical. I really love these guys, I wouldn’t wanna play with anyone else,” said senior Jack Kruger, who made several big stops on defense.
Bellevue snagged three interceptions, two by senior Jalen Love and one by junior Joby Schneider, who also ran the ball strong on offense. There were four fumbles during the game with three recoveries by Eastside Catholic and one by Bellevue.
Eastside Catholic’s first recovery amounted to an 80-yard return for a touchdown by Andrew Pederson with 6:04 left in the first quarter.
Bellevue’s Jed Michael cut the lead to 7-3 with a 33-yard field with 9:51 left in the second quarter, but that was all of the Wolverines’ scoring for the day.
After Love broke from Bellevue’s final postgame huddle, he noted: “No matter the situation, we’re a band of brothers over at Bellevue and we’ll always fight for each other. We’re just ready to build for the next generations coming up and just know that this is always a family here.”
In the huddle, head coach Michael Kneip said that he’s proud of his players and coaching staff. They are first-class people, the coach said in an interview a few minutes earlier.
Kneip tipped his cap to a talented Eastside Catholic team and praised his runners for racking up close to 200 yards.
Schneider said this season the Wolverines worked hard, never gave up and they’ll be his friends for the rest of his life.
“This team was special because no matter what coaching staff we had, we were the same players, still had the same mentality. These seniors went through three different coaching staffs, so just for them to continue to fight, no matter what (was great),” Schneider added.
Kruger said he’ll continue to work hard at whatever he does because of what he experienced as a member of the Bellevue football program.
“We were running hills in the summer at 2 a.m., we had weights at 6 a.m. and that’s the kind of work ethic we need, all of us, for the rest of our lives,” he said.