High School Sports

Get ready for Bellarmine Prep-Bothell IV in state high school football playoffs

A misnomer is floating around about the full-bloom Bellarmine Prep-Bothell state football playoff rivalry.

It is that the Cougars haven’t figured out a way to beat the local school.

That is not entirely true. Back in 2002, Bothell hosted the Lions at Pop Keeney Stadium in the first round of the 4A playoffs, and comfortably handed them a 21-7 defeat.

It is just that nobody remembers that far back.

Why? Because the two Class 4A programs have made a recent habit to play each other often — and at the same site.

Top-ranked Bothell comes to Mount Tahoma Stadium for the fourth time in five seasons for a 1 p.m. state quarterfinal game Saturday against Bellarmine Prep.

And the Lions seemingly have Bothell’s number — they have won the past three meetings, all in close outcomes.

Asked to explain their run of success, Bellarmine Prep coach Tom Larsen shrugged his shoulders.

“I’ll just go with an old quote that some coach said a long time ago,” Larsen said. “It doesn’t matter who the best team is. It is who plays the best that day. To be honest, we’ve been fortunate to get some breaks against that excellent team every year.”

A brief recap of the recent series:

• In 2010, sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau led the Lions’ offense to four unanswered touchdowns — the last on a game-winning 6-yard pass to Michael Rector with 20.6 seconds to go — and Bellarmine Prep won, 28-21.

• In 2012, the Lions jumped out to a big lead, held a 35-17 advantage in the fourth quarter, and survived a late Bothell charge to win, 35-30.

• Last season, the game went to overtime but the Lions prevailed, 20-17. Matthew Philichi nailed a 37-yard field goal on Bellarmine Prep’s series, and the game ended when Bothell quarterback Ross Bowers threw an interception from the Lions’ 10.

“There have been two constants in all of those games,” Bothell coach Tom Bainter said. “One, they were very well-coached, disciplined and they took care of the football. And the second one was the hurdle — ourselves. We’ve committed turnovers in every single one of (the games).”

Sooner or later, the Cougars will end the losing streak. It might come Saturday. Bowers returns as one of the top signal callers in the state. His receiving corps is big, fast and reliable. Bothell has had only one game this season in which it scored fewer than 40 points.

“Their arsenal,” Larsen said, “is full.”

Bainter was in the grandstands last weekend at Doc Harris Stadium for the Bellarmine Prep-Camas first-round game. He said it was evident early on that underdog Lions were on point. They won the game, 20-13.

“I am not superstitious, but we are changing some things up,” Bainter said. “We changed our breakfast (meal), and we are bringing a pep band down.”

He laughed a little bit. Another trip to Tacoma.

“It would be great to get them at our place one of these days,” Bainter said.