TACOMA — For three of the four quarters of Friday night’s 3A state semifinal between Marysville Pilchuck and Bellevue, the Tomahawks looked poised to pull off what many would have thought was unthinkable — ending the Wolverines’ 66-game winning streak and run of six consecutive state championships.
In the fourth quarter, however, Bellevue closed the door on the Tomahawks’ upset bid by scoring the final 10 points of the game and escaping with a 20-10 victory.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Bellevue head coach Butch Goncharoff said. “Peninsula was pretty tough, too. They had a great scheme, we knew that. They’re well-coached and they have great players. We knew they were going to run the ball and we thought we could try to take away that, but those kids are good, though. We thought we had some things in the passing game, but they recovered really well. They’re a great team, it was a lot of fun to play.”
Though the Tomahawks never led, it felt as though momentum was on their side for the first three quarters.
After a three-and-out to start the game, it was on Marysville Pilchuck’s defense to set the tone, which it did on the Wolverines’ first possession.
The Tomahawks bent when they gave up a 38-yard pass from Justus Rogers to Ross Connors, but never broke. After the big passing play, MP’s defense stuffed Bellevue on three consecutive plays to force a 41-yard field goal attempt by Kian Khodamroadi, who missed it wide to the left.
Despite the inspiring defensive stop, Marysville Pilchuck’s offense continued to struggle, going three-and-out again and promptly giving the ball back to the Wolverines.
This time, Bellevue took advantage.
The Wolverines got another big play from their offense on the drive’s fourth play. Running back Isaiah Gilchrist scored on a 36-yard touchdown run, but it was negated after Bellevue was called for a block in the back. Gilchrist’s run still netted the Wolverines 20 positive yards. Five plays later, Sam Richmond was in the end zone, scoring on a 1-yard run on the first play of the second quarter.
The Tomahawks’ offense finally started to produce on their next possession, driving deep into Bellevue territory. Bellevue’s defense clamped down inside its own 10-yard line to hold the Tomahawks to a field goal.
Late in the first half, Marysville Pilchuck took a chance on a 4th-and-1 from its own 35-yard line, but came up empty. Killian Page was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the Wolverines took over. A few plays later they added a field goal to take a 10-3 advantage at halftime.
Richmond, Bellevue’s workhorse, scored the only touchdown of the first half, but he managed just 39 yards on 14 carries as Marysville Pilchuck held the running game in check.
“They were just good,” Goncharoff said. “They beat us across the line and they tackled well. When you get to the final four teams, everybody tackles well. Our guys, (in the) first half were a little tentative and didn’t hit the holes. They thought they could get out and make some plays outside and those guys dropped us. Give them the credit, they did a great job.”
The Tomahawks’ defense remained strong in the second half and gave their offense a chance to tie the game late in the third quarter. Marysville Pilchuck surprised the Wolverines’ defense by calling a slant pass on 3rd-and-7 from the Bellevue 14-yard line. Drew Hatch hauled in the pass for a touchdown. Sebastian Navarro’s extra point tied the score at 10, which is how the quarter ended.
Bellevue took seven minutes off the clock on its next possession and capped it off with a touchdown, the second of the game by Richmond.
The MP offense stalled on the next possession and seemingly in a blink of an eye Bellevue was back in control. The Wolverines ran more clock and kicked a field goal with 2:46 to play in the game to take a 20-10 lead. The made field goal came after Bellevue kicker Kian Khodamroadi had missed the play before, but Marysville Pilchuck was called for running into the kicker.
Trailing by 10, there simply wasn’t enough time for MP to climb back into the game.
“There’s no style points,” Goncharoff said. “You’ve got to take them where you can take them, and we’ll take it.
“They (the Tomahawks) didn’t quit. They battled all the way. That was fun.”
And the Wolverines were battling the Marysville Pilchuck crowd all night. Tomahawk fans came out in full force to support their team.
“It was awesome,” Goncharoff said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to those guys. They came out and played hard. We had a feeling going into this that there wasn’t going to be a lot of people cheering for us tonight and that’s to be expected. I thought it was great. I think it’s a good thing for our Bellevue people to see and actually show up, maybe. That’d be nice. A tremendous job by them.”
It was the type of game MP wanted, too.
“We did want a close battle,” wide receiver and linebacker Drew Hatch said. “We would have liked to have been on the other end, but we didn’t want a lopsided game. Either team that won was going to get a hard-fought one.”
Marysville Pilchuck star running back Austin Joyner finished with 90 yards on 16 carries in his final high-school game.
“Joyner, he’s the real deal,” Goncharoff said. “We knew that going in. We had a pretty good plan, we thought, but he still got his yards. Playing both ways and playing defense in here is hard to do and he did a great job.”
After everything his team had been through in the past month, Marysville Pilchuck head coach Brandon Carson was proud of his team.
“I’m really proud of these kids for what they’ve done, not only for each other, but their entire community,” Carson said. “I just wish we could play one more game.”
Marysville Pilchuck 0 3 7 0 — 10
Bellevue 0 10 0 10 — 20
B—Sam Richmond 1 run (Kina Khodamoradi kick)
MP—Sebastian Navarro 24 field goal
B—Khodamoradi 28 field goal
MP—Drew Hatch 14 pass from Erik Lind (Navarro kick)
B—Richmond 2 run (Khodamoradi kick)
B—Khodamoradi 19 field goal
Records—Marysville Pilchuck 11-2. Bellevue 13-0.