Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff says the best team won
The sting of losing his first football game in a Bellevue High School uniform won’t fade quickly for Henry Roberts. But neither will the memories of being part of a 67-game winning streak, one of the longest in the nation.
Seattle Times staff reporter
TACOMA — The sting of losing his first football game in a Bellevue High School uniform won’t fade quickly for Henry Roberts.
But neither will the memories of being part of a magnificent run that came to an end when Eastside Catholic won the Class 3A state championship with a 35-13 victory over the Wolverines on Friday night at the Tacoma Dome.
That ended one of the nation’s longest winning streaks at 67 and snapped Bellevue’s string of six consecutive state titles.
“I’m upset, but that’s part of life,” said Roberts, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound senior lineman who has committed to Washington. “You’re not going to win every game, and it just puts more fuel in our tanks for later.”
Yet these seniors had won every game during their four-year careers, so this was hard to swallow.
Defensive back Ross Connors was almost inconsolable.
“We lost everything,” he said. “Congratulations to them, but it’s just embarrassing. They kicked our (butts). There’s no way around it. They’re way better than us.”
That’s the simple message coach Butch Goncharoff had for his players in the aftermath — they were beaten by a superior team.
“The best team won,” he said. “I’ve been on the other end of it many times, and they were better in all three phases of the game. They beat us. And you know what? I told the kids I’d rather lose like that than give it away.”
Over and over, Goncharoff gave credit to the Crusaders and their ability to almost run the ball at will. Several times during the playoffs, he had said the streak would end sometime. But what a streak it was, and he was proud of the seniors who were part of it.
“They battled,” he said. “It’s been a great run for a long time.”
For a while, it looked as though it might continue. The Wolverines (13-1), ranked No. 11 nationally, had two early leads, 7-0 and 13-7.
But Eastside Catholic (13-1), which had lost the previous two championship games to Bellevue, answered back and was in control the rest of the way. The Crusaders went up 14-13 with 30 seconds to go in the second quarter, and for the first time all season, Bellevue trailed at the break.
The Wolverines’ confidence wasn’t shaken. The deficit grew to 21-13 midway through the third period after a great catch-and-run by Devon Arbis-Jackson.
But Bellevue still believed.
It was a one-possession game, and victory was well within reach.
Then Eastside Catholic held on fourth-and-three, and followed with another score, a 1-yard run by Brandon Wellington, and it was 28-13 early in the fourth quarter.
But Bellevue still believed.
“We never quit,” Roberts said. “We never give up on each other. We always believe.”
Then the Crusaders pulled off an onside kick and did the unthinkable, marching down the throat of what had been a impenetrable Bellevue defense. Wellington wound up with his second TD.
It was 35-13 with 4:18 to play, and reality began to seep in.
Roberts said he would remember “all the hard work we’ve done. ... Those are just the building blocks of life. Those are the things I’m going to take out of this.”