Bellevue’s Sean Constantine jumped as high as he could on the sideline, a white T-shirt wrapped around his forehead as he threw his fist into the air and shouted in excitement.
He jumped so high, so many times, the shirt unraveled and covered his face so he couldn’t see. Constantine kept jumping. The senior linebacker who has committed to play for the University of Washington tried to get it off, but he was just too excited.
“When you are in that zone, it’s just crazy,” Constantine said. “That was just all the energy and craziness coming out right there.”
He was deservedly excited. Top-ranked Bellevue High School beat No. 2 Eastside Catholic, 35-3, to win the Class 3A state championship Friday night in the Tacoma Dome.
The Wolverines made Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association history with its fifth consecutive Class 3A state title (and 11th overall) and Constantine, along with many other members of the Bellevue senior class, won his fourth state championship with the Wolverines.
But his coach, Butch Goncharoff, had more than a state record on his mind when he addressed his team after beating the second-ranked Crusaders.
“I’ll tell you right now,” Goncharoff said to his Wolverines. “This is the best team in the country at this point.”
That might be because of Bellevue’s staunch defense. The Wolverines, ranked No. 2 by both ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated, gave up a total of 13 points in five postseason games. Its starting defense allowed one touchdown this season.
“This team has some talent,” Goncharoff said. “People said no sophomores could win a state title. They did. Then they beat Oaks Christian (Calif.), Skyline, Trinity (Texas), Eastside Catholic.
“As a senior class, they are the benchmark that we want our freshmen to look up to.”
Eleven Bellevue seniors are hoping to play for NCAA Division I college teams.
But Bishard “Budda” Baker isn’t one of them. Baker, the most electric player on the field Friday, still has another year.
He returned a punt for a touchdown, added a 71-yard TD run, then helped seal the game with an interception that led to a 95-yard TD run by Myles Jack.
He was seldom used throughout the season only because Bellevue had other weapons at its disposal.
“We haven’t used him much because we haven’t needed to,” Goncharoff said. “Budda is explosive, and you get him into open space and he opens things up. We should have given it to him more, but you live and learn and you move on.”
“I knew Coach Butch was holding me back, but it’s all right,” Baker said. “I don’t care. I know what I can do and I’m just thankful I got the ball.”
Eastside Catholic’s first mistake was punting to him.
Baker returned a kick 89 yards as a sophomore in Bellevue’s state championship victory against O’Dea last year, and he added another special teams touchdown in this one.
He found a seam in the middle of the field, sprinted 71 yards into the end zone, and was met by Wolverines teammates as Bellevue took a quick 7-0 lead.
That was all Eastside Catholic needed to see. The Crusaders sent low, line-drive punts down the sideline the rest of the game that gave Baker no chance of returning.
So Bellevue found another way to get him the ball – it handed it to him.
Bellevue extended that lead to 17 points in the third quarter when Baker took a handoff right, made a hard cut left and left the Crusaders in the dust for a 61-yard TD run.
“That kid is amazing,” said Jack, who has committed to play linebacker for UCLA. “He is straight-up athlete, freak of nature.”
The long run was an anomaly for a Crusaders defense that had held its own until that point.
But Bellevue quarterback Jack Meggs finally found a hole when he faked a handoff to Jack. The defense bit on the fake, and he ran through the middle 28 yards untouched for the Wolverines’ second score.
Meggs called his own number again on the Wolverines’ next drive, but this time had the ball poked away and Eastside Catholic’s Peter Kimble jumped on it at the Bellevue 35.
The Crusaders drove down to the 6 and looked like they might score the second touchdown the Wolverines starting defense had given up this season, but turned the ball over on downs, allowing Bellevue to retain its 14-3 lead into the half.
That was as close as Eastside Catholic would get to the end zone.
“Our defense is obviously one of the best,” Jack said. “You can’t say enough about it.”
And that is how most will remember the 2012 Wolverines. But Constantine said he hopes he remembers them for more than good defense.
“I want our legacy to be as one of the best teams to ever play,” Constantine said. “It’s a big statement to say we are the best, but I think we did enough to prove we are.”