The Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks had everyone on their side: their community, other football programs from around the state, even the Seattle Seahawks.
But it wasn’t enough to stop the machine that is the Bellevue Wolverines football program.
Bellevue (13-0) scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, snapping a 10-10 tie and securing a 20-10 victory in the Class 3A state semifinal at the Tacoma Dome on Friday night.
It was the 67th consecutive victory for Bellevue, which will attempt to win its seventh state championship in a row at the Tacoma Dome on December 5. They’ll play the winner of Saturday’s game between Eastside Catholic and Mt. Spokane.
“We don’t really try to keep track of that,” Bellevue senior running back Sam Richmond said. “We try to treat each year as a new year.”
Richmond scored the go-ahead touchdown with 8 minutes, 4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. He rushed up the middle for a 2-yard score, capping a 14-play, 80-yard drive for the Wolverines.
“Our offensive line blocked it perfectly,” Richmond said. “I just had to hit the hole and go full speed, and I knew it was there.”
Richmond rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, and Justus Rogers carried 11 times for 92 yards.
The Tomahawks’ run to the state semifinal helped raise spirits in the halls of Marysville-Pilchuck High School, which was reeling after a tragic shooting took five lives on October 24.
Marysville-Pilchuck was in the state semis for the first time since 1989, when it lost to Curtis as a 4A school.
The Tomahawks played a hard-hitting game, matching Bellevue for the first three quarters. Marysville-Pilchuck tied the game 10-10 late in the third quarter, when quarterback Erik Lind found Drew Hatch for a 14-yard touchdown pass.
But it was the very next drive when Bellevue put together its 80-yard march.
“(Marysville-Pilchuck) is a great team,” Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff said. “They beat us across the line and tackled well.”
By scoring 10 points, Marysville-Pilchuck did something rare. It was just the fourth time in 13 contests this season Bellevue has allowed 10 or more points in a game. The Bellevue defense has allowed only 76 points all year.
“It starts with Ross Connors,” said Goncharoff. “He might be the best high school linebacker I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some good ones.”
Connors had four tackles for Bellevue, while fellow senior linebacker Mustafa Branch had seven.
Bellevue limited the vaunted Tomahawks ground attack to 153 rushing yards. Washington State commit Austin Joyner led the Tomahawks with 90 yards on 16 carries.
Marysville-Pilchuck made a costly decision late in the second quarter. Trailing 7-3 and facing fourth-and-1 from their own 35 with 1:46 left in the half, the Tomahawks could have punted deep into Bellevue territory.
Instead, the Tomahawks elected to go for it. A run attempt was stuffed in the backfield, and Bellevue was able to collect two first downs and set up a 28-yard field goal to secure a 10-3 halftime lead.