Eastside Catholic knew to beat the five-time defending state champions from Bellevue, they would need a near-flawless effort.
Instead they were left lamenting missed opportunities after the Wolverines forced four turnovers in a 52-20 win for the 3A state title.
“We needed to play better,” Eastside Catholic head coach Jeremy Thielbahr said. “That’s a great ballclub over there.”
The Crusaders drove inside the Bellevue 20-yard line on the game’s first drive. But an interception in the end zone from senior Tim Haehl set the tone and led to a score from the Wolverines’ senior tight end Ross Conners six plays later for a 7-0 lead.
Sophomore quarterback Harley Kirsch pulled his team within seven in the second quarter with a one-yard quarterback sneak to cap an eight play drive that covered 57 yards.
But three Bellevue touchdowns in the final four minutes of the half, bolstered by a fumble recovery deep in Crusaders’ territory, put things out of reach and ended EC’s hopes of the program’s first state title.
“We’ve just got to compete at a higher level, more consistently,” Thielbahr said.
Senior running back Henry Jarvis returned from injury and finished with four carries, but a stingy Bellevue defense held the Crusaders to just 24 yards on the ground for the game.
Kirsch finished with 27 completions on his 37 attempts, with two interceptions and a touchdown pass to senior Colin MacIlvennie on the game’s final play.
Thielbahr praised his team’s growth throughout the year, and Goncharoff said there was little doubt EC would again find itself in prime position to challenge for more titles in coming years, with a bevy of talented underclassmen led by Kirsch.
But to achieve the final goal and leave the Tacoma Dome with a 3A state title trophy, they know there is work to be done.
“We’ve got to go back and get prepared for next season,” Thielbahr said. “I believe in this team. I believe in our kids.”