The horn sounded, hands were shook, the season was over and at the end of the day, the Class 3A trophy ended up right where it started this season.
The Wolverines, winners of the past two state titles, won their third straight and eighth in 10 seasons with a commanding 38-0 win over Kamiakin Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
When it was all said and done, Bellevue took home the hardware yet again. It was only fitting that senior quarterback and safety Kendrick Van Ackeren, the Wolverines’ vocal leader and captain, was raised high atop his teammates shoulders, hoisting highly the trophy that Bellevue players have come so accustomed to possessing.
“I don’t know if it’s because I grabbed the trophy first or because they like me,” Van Ackeren said with a laugh following the game. “I don’t think we had a doubt in our mind tonight and we played like it.”
Using a formula they had used so many times before – the Wing-T offense and a dominating defense – the No.1 Wolverines (13-1) walked all over the Braves from Kennewick, the 38-point victory the largest in Class 3A history.
Bellevue rushed for 302 yards and never turned the ball over, while forcing Kamiakin (13-1) to turn it over six times.
After a Latrelle Dukes 14-yard touchdown and a 25-yard field goal from Mitch Johnson, the Wolverines led 10-0 with 4:24 left in the first half. The four minute span that would follow turned out to be the backbreaker for the Braves.
With Bellevue facing a 4th-and-inches on their own 44, Dukes broke loose for a 56-yard touchdown run. On Kamiakin’s next drive, Tyler Hasty intercepted Braves junior quarterback Joey Jansen and returned it for a 77-yard touchdown. Two plays later, Bellevue senior Joey Mangialardi scooped up a fumbled Kamiakin handoff and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.
“It just popped up in front of me, it was crazy,” said Mangialardi, who sat out the last two games with a sprained ankle. “I saw the opportunity and I just wanted it so bad.”
In just under three minutes Bellevue’s lead increased from 10-0 to 31-0.
The Wolverines scored just one touchdown in the second half – a 62-yard touchdown pass from Van Ackeren to Joey Moore – but continued their dominating defense. Bellevue held Jansen to 12 of 26 passing and 93 yards, with Hasty, Van Ackeren, Michael Foreman and Elan Richards all pulling down interceptions. While Kamiakin did have 228 yards of offense, the Braves never advanced further than the Bellevue 30-yard line – and that was in the first quarter.
“The difference to this team was about three weeks ago, we started playing defense,” said Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff. “They started believing in what we were doing and they started to get it.”
Sophomore Ari Morales (121 yards) and Dukes (106) led Bellevue in rushing. The Wolverines had eight players carry the ball. Seven of the eight are underclassman who will return next season, a point that illustrates the youth of this Bellevue squad. The Wolverines played as many as 12 sophomores this season all over the field.
“The young guys played big,” said Foreman, another senior. “We talked to them early in the year and told them they were going to have to be a big part of our team and they contributed well.”
In a decade of dominance, just one question remained for Goncharoff. When asked by a reporter if it ever gets old, winning all of these state titles, the coach could do nothing but smile.
“People ask me that and I don’t think it gets old because of the kids,” he said. “You’re around kids for this long, you enjoy it and you want to see them be successful. Every year is different and you want to send them out the right way. It’s fun.”
Senior lineman Marcus Henry, who will play at Boise State next season, summed things up succinctly, standing in the end zone with a smile on his face.
“We’ve prepared for this moment right here,” he said. “The best feeling in the world. Winning my senior year, with all of my best friends. This is amazing.”
Notes: Zach Umemoto (63 yards) and Dom Davis (55 yards) led Kamiakin in rushing…Braves senior Tim White had four catches for 42 yards, leading all Kamiakin receivers…White, who had returned eight punts for scores this season, racked up 130 yards on kickoff returns but never broke loose for a touchdown…Goncharoff gave credit to Kamiakin and coach Scott Biglin, but noted “It’s hard to play us for the first time. You can talk all about the speed, but you play us for the first time and its not easy.”…Bellevue lost sophomore running back Myles Jack, who scored two touchdowns last week, on their first drive…Jack suffered a quad contusion and did not return…Bellevue has never lost in a state championship game.