Bishard “Budda” Baker is seated on the top row of the cold, metal bleachers at Bellevue Memorial Stadium. With the stadium lights already off after a long practice, he turns his gaze toward the field as he describes the tattoo he had etched on his right shoulder last year.
“‘Each day is not promised,’” Baker says of the writing. “It just reminds me I have to cherish each day and each moment because you never know when it’s all going to end.”
The prodigious running back/defensive back, projected to be the state’s top recruit, was speaking of life in general, but he says it certainly includes his run with the Bellevue High football team and prior history.
Baker was in the seventh grade the last time he lost a football game.
The Wolverines have won 51 consecutive games, tying the 1956-61 Lake Washington teams for the longest unbeaten streak in Washington Interscholastic Activities Association history (Lake Washington’s run included three ties). Bellevue has won five consecutive state titles during the streak — another WIAA record.
Bellevue must beat Peninsula in the state quarterfinals Saturday at Roy Anderson Field to claim sole possession of the record.
“I told my girlfriend that if we lose, I’m not going to be talking for two weeks,” Baker said.
Among the coaching staff, however, the record quest is a low priority.
“I honestly didn’t have a clue what the streak was,” Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff said. “I talked with my AD and he said we are near some streak. (assistant coach Pat) Jones and I are like, ‘What are you talking about? What streak?’”
It might seem coy, but Goncharoff said claiming the 52-year-old record doesn’t keep him up at night.
“I just don’t care,” Goncharoff said of the win streak. “Honestly, at the end of the day is it really that big of a deal? Not to us.
“I think you have a goal and every team has a ceiling and you just try to hit that ceiling. We are kind of there, but we are not there. We feel good about it, but we don’t.”
The Wolverines have won by an average of 31.8 points their past 51 games. Their offense has piled up 40.3 points per game and the defense doesn’t allow much more than a touchdown and a 2-point conversion.
Bellevue last lost 28-21 against Skyline in 2010, though it led 14-0 before Skyline rallied.
The Wolverines certainly aren’t streaking because they play dead weights, either.
Bellevue has topped out-of-state powerhouses such as Oaks Christian (Calif.) and Trinity (Texas). It dominated Skyline, 45-7, in the season opener this year and has won 21 consecutive state tournament games.
The Wolverines are ranked No. 15 in the nation by USA Today and 12th by MaxPreps. They reached No. 1 in the ESPN and Sports Illustrated polls the end of last year.
“I came in knowing I wanted to do something different and try to create kind of a national program at a small public school,” Goncharoff said. “But you never think it’s going to be like this.”
Morgan Richey, a senior who claims he was the only freshman on the 2010 team that last lost a game, said he can only remember one pre-game speech where Goncharoff mentioned the team’s win-loss record.
It came just before the 2012 state championship game against Eastside Catholic. It was brief and to the point.
“I just remember Butch came in and he said, ‘We have never lost in a state championship game and it’s not going to start now,’” Richey said. “Then he walked out.”
Peninsula coach Ross Filkins isn’t new to standing between Bellevue and a record. It’s the second year in a row he will play the Wolverines in the state quarterfinals and Bellevue’s 40-3 win last year pushed its win streak to 38 – passing the 1970-73 Curtis teams for consecutive big-school (3A/4A) wins in a row.
Filkins also remembers he and most of his current coaching staff sitting in the stands when Bellevue ended De La Salle’s (Calif.) national-record 151-game win streak in 2004.
“Everything comes to an end,” Filkins said. “Someone is going to beat them. That is inevitable. So it might as well be us.”
Just don’t expect Goncharoff to get emotional if it happens.
“Hopefully we can find a way to get it done, but if we don’t, we don’t. You won’t see me crying, you won’t see any tears,” he said. “But with this group, they compete so well that somebody is going to have to beat them. At some point we will lose either because the team was better than us, or we gave it away.
“I just want it to be because a team beat us.”
Bellevue needs to nearly triple their current win streak to match the De La Salle record it halted nine years ago.
But 151 games? Can Bellevue reach it?
“Yes, most definitely,” Baker said. “I know De La Salle is a great team and they worked, but that’s what we are doing – we are working.
“When I leave, I’m going to come back here and see all these guys still working hard and I’m going to be very proud.”