Bothell High’s Tom Bainter and Eastside Catholic’s Jeremy Thielbahr know all about coaching in the Gridiron Classic.
Bothell lost in back-to-back Class 4A title games — to Oak Harbor in 2006 and Lewis & Clark in 2007 — , while Eastside Catholic lost to Bellevue the past two years in the Class 3A title game.
A third shot at a title is knocking at the door for both coaches, though neither think a crown is needed to make their careers successful.
“I don’t buy into that,” Thielbahr said. “I judge us by how many kids have a great experience and how many kids come back and are forever Eastside Catholic Crusaders.”
Added Bainter: “There’s nothing in it for me to complete what I’ve done or anything. … I’m one guy.”
Thielbahr and the Crusaders (12-1) face six-time defending state champion Bellevue (13-0) in the Class 3A title game at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at the Tacoma Dome, while the Cougars (13-0) play for the Class 4A title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night against defending state champion Chiawana (12-1) of Pasco.
Bainter’s 2006 squad was the first in program history to reach a title game. The Cougars were the favorite, too, but lost to Oak Harbor, 21-14.
A year later, the Cougars marched right back to the same juncture, but again lost 21-14, this time to Lewis & Clark.
This Cougars’ team is aware of the program’s past. And it wants to be the one that brings home the program’s first title.
“We sat in our gym after our game (37-19 semifinal win over Newport of Bellevue) and I was telling them, ‘This is the tough one now,’ ” Bainter said. “And they were looking at me like, ‘Coach, shoot, we know that. You don’t have to tell us that.’ They looked at me as if to say, ‘Coach, this wasn’t our goal. We’re not satisfied, and we’ve got work to do.’ ”
Thielbahr has seen his team lose to the Wolverines in his first three seasons in the state playoffs, but perhaps the fourth time will be the charm.
“Our whole mission this year has been we’re making it to the state championship,” Thielbahr said. “If we hadn’t made the state championship game, it would have been, in my opinion, a huge letdown. The expectation was not only to make the state championship game this year, but to win it.”