Mount Si did something against top-ranked Bellevue no other team has done this season. The Wildcats scored first.
ESPN.com’s No. 2-ranked high school team in the nation trailing a team making its first Class 3A state semifinal appearance? It was unprecedented, it was shocking – but it didn’t last.
Bellevue scored 37 straight points after Mount Si scored early.
With their 37-7 victory Friday at the Tacoma Dome, the Wolverines advanced to the state championship game for a shot at their fifth consecutive 3A title and ninth since 2001.
“We are a mature group,” said Bellevue’s UW-bound linebacker, Sean Constantine. “We just had to keep our confidence up and know it was going to pay off eventually.”
The Wolverines took the ball to start the game but went nowhere. Neither did Mount Si on its first possession against a Bellevue defense that entered the game allowing 5.2 points a game.
But on the ensuing punt, Bellevue’s Scott Whiting muffed it in his own territory, and Jimbo Davis fell on it to give the Wildcats great field position.
Then, facing third down at the Bellevue 16, Mount Si’s Nick Mitchell dropped back, searched and threw off his back foot to Joey Cotto down the left sideline just before Reuben Mwehla could swat it away. Cotto took it in for a touchdown.
Touchdown? No team from the state of Washington had scored a touchdown on the Wolverines during the first three quarters of play this season.
“We had to stop letting our emotions get the best of us,” Constantine said.
The Wolverines quickly responded. They used 13 plays to drive 80 yards on their next possession as John Nguyen found a path to the end zone from 10 yards out to tie the game at 7.
But Mount Si coach Charlie Kinnune knew his team would need a lot more mistakes from Bellevue than the muffed punt.
“They never make mistakes,” Kinnune said. “But we were good enough to capitalize on the one they made. That’s really it. We capitalized on their mistake, and I wouldn’t read into it any more than that.
“We needed about three more of those.”
That’s because it was all Bellevue from there.
Kicker Ryan Bordner connected on field goals of 46 and 43 yards in the first half, and Nguyen added another TD to give the Wolverines a 20-7 halftime lead.
The Bellevue defense stepped up as well, coming up with an interception, a fumble recovery and a turnover on downs on Mount Si’s next three possessions in the half.
“We struggled those first couple possessions, but we didn’t panic, we didn’t point fingers, we just kept coming after them,” said Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff. “That is the mark of a good team.”
It got worse for Mount Si in the third quarter. The Wildcats had minus-3 yards of total offense, while Nguyen added another touchdown, and Budda Baker also scored to put the Wolverines ahead 37-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
“They are who they are,” Kinnune said. “That’s all it is. I don’t think there is anyone who can play with them.”
Nguyen finished with 15 carries for 147 yards and three TDs, and the Wolverines held a 310-65 edge in rushing.
Still, a Mount Si team making its longest postseason run in school history – compared with 10 semifinal appearances in 11 years for Bellevue – was plenty proud to be taking home a claim on third place.
“I’m so proud,” Kinnune said. “This is the best team in school history. I love my team so much. So many things went right for us this year. It just didn’t quite end right.”
Now Bellevue looks to capture its fifth consecutive state title when it plays the winner of today’s University and Eastside Catholic next week.
Goncharoff was already looking ahead.
“You move on,” Goncharoff said. “It’s a good game, you put it to bed. This one is over, and now we got to go get ready for the next one.”