Inevitability. Defined as “incapable of being avoided or evaded” it appears to describe high school football in Washington state at the 3A level. After a season of close games, upsets, and overtime thrillers around the state, Eastside Catholic and Bellevue will meet next weekend to decide the WIAA 3A state championship. It is the fourth consecutive year the Crusaders and Wolverines will play for all the marbles at the Tacoma Dome. Friday, the two teams set the stage for the renewal of their high-level rivalry with convincing semifinal victories. Eastside Catholic outgunned the Lakes Lancers 49-26. Bellevue whipped a game but outmanned squad from Bishop Blanchet 56-28.
Eastside Catholic took control of the Lancers from the opening kickoff. Brandon Wellington received the kick at his 15-yard line and bobbled it briefly before taking it up the left sideline unhindered for the score. It took 14 seconds and the Lancers would get nary a sniff of the game from there on out. Lakes actually outgained the victorious Crusaders 497 yards to 328 yards, but five Lakes turnovers (four in the first half) and two Eastside Catholic kick return TDs (both in the first half and both by Wellington) make yardage numbers irrelevant. The halftime score was 42-14 and only the final margin remained in doubt.
Offensively, Eastside senior quarterback Harley Kirsch stood tall in the pocket and picked the Lancers apart. Kirsch was 12/14 for 238 yards with four touchdown throws on the day. Lakes’ defense, statistically the weakest unit of the four semifinalists, was unable to overcome the errors in kick coverage or the offensive miscues.
The young gridiron warriors from Lakewood received a nice ovation from their crowd following the contest. As the last two-loss team standing at the end, Lakes can take pride in their third-place finish. The Lancers aren’t in Eastside Catholic’s league (only Bellevue is), but the folks from Lakes are justifiably proud of their third-place trophy.
In the nightcap, Bellevue’s 28 point win over Bishop Blanchet didn’t come without a tussle. Repeatedly the green-clad Braves appeared vanquished only to get off the mat and fight on. Bellevue took an early 14-point lead, and the Braves cut it to seven at the end of the first quarter. The Wolverines stretched the lead to 21 points early in the third. Bishop Blanchet cut it to 14 and had the ball. Eventually, the slick ball handling and overwhelming numbers of ball carriers Bellevue throws at an opponent proved to be too much for the Braves. Bellevue’s nine runners amassed 392 yards on the ground, and the Wolverines totaled 566 yards overall. Bellevue’s senior quarterback Justus Rogers threw for 157 yards and rushed for 103 yards.
The loud and supportive Bishop Blanchet crowd roared their approval as their young men accepted the award for finishing third in the state. In fact, both losing teams received the majority of fan support. It was as if their fans knew the meaning of inevitability.
Eastside Catholic beat Bellevue 35-13 last year. Bellevue proved superior in 2012 with a 35-3 whipping of the Crusaders. The Wolverines continued their supremacy with a 52-20 win in 2013. It should be a great finals matchup next week.