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Bellevue blanks Yelm in Washington 3A football state championship

Wolverines rack up second state championship under coach Michael Kneip - and 12th overall in school history
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SEATTLE - It was the swing of a lifetime for the Bellevue High School football team.

For Yelm, it was a huge heartbreaker.

The ejection of Yelm star Brayden Platt just 5 minutes, 50 seconds into the game completely changed the complexion of the Class 3A state championship game Friday night.

Sixth-seeded Bellevue took advantage of the huge hole left by Platt’s absence and secured a 14-0 triumph over No. 1 seed Yelm in the WIAA championship game at Husky Stadium.

The Tornados sorely missed the presence of Platt, an Oregon commit, on both sides of the ball at linebacker and running back after he was ejected for throwing a punch at a Bellevue player. That break allowed Bellevue (12-2) to wrap up the school’s 12th state title in the sport, tying a state-best championship total.

“Brayden’s my guy, so I hate to see that (stuff), but we can’t have stuff like that affect our team,” said Bellevue senior Hogan Hansen, who will play at Michigan next fall. “That’s because we had one goal, and we weren’t going to let something like that get in the way. It does suck a little, because I want to play against my friend (Platt) who’s going to college next year to play D1.

“It sucks, but control what you can control. That’s been our message all year. We just had to go out and do what we do.”

Everyone knows the Bellevue program for its vaunted Wing-T rushing attack, but it was the Wolverines’ defense that decided this one. Bellevue forced three turnovers, including two fumble recoveries, and limited Yelm to 206 yards total and just 48 yards on the ground.

“We started off this season rough and let up a lot of points and a lot of people doubted our defense and (people) thought it just would be like last year where [Yelm] would come out and score 28 points,” said Hansen, a tight end on offense and defensive end on defense. “But we buckled down and we had belief. We locked in. We found our identity through the season and it showed tonight.”

The loss denied Yelm (13-1) successive state crowns after the Tornados used good fortune to down Eastside Catholic, 20-13, in the 2022 title game, but never got any momentum back after losing Platt.

Carson Rubin led Bellevue with 155 yards rushing and a TD on 26 carries as the Wolverines ground out 339 yards rushing.

“We knew we were the more physical team, and they may have been a little bigger but we’ve proven it,” Rubin said. “We’ve played huge teams over the course of the season. You know, we wanted it more than them.”

The biggest twist of the game came with 5:50 remaining in the first quarter when the Bellevue defense stuffed Platt for no gain on a running play.

As Platt tried to bounce it to the left, his helmet was pulled off on a swarming tackle. And after he made contact with Bellevue’s Damaad Lewis, Platt threw a punch at the defender.

After the referees met to discuss the activity, Platt was ejected.

The Bellevue sideline celebrated wildly, jumping up and down when it was announced that Platt was disqualified from the game and forced to play the final 41:10 without him.

“He’s really important to their team,” Hansen said of Platt. “I mean he took himself out of the game by wanting to do some extracurricular (activity), so that’s on him at the end of the day. If he was locked in like our team, maybe it would be a different story.”

The Wolverines took a 14-0 lead on Rubin’s 1-yard touchdown run, capping a soul-crushing scoring drive that took the first 7:29 off the clock in the second half.

“It hurts,” Yelm coach Jason Ronquillo said. “You can’t lose a player like Brayden and think that it doesn’t hurt on both sides of the ball and all three phases. Best player in Washington, maybe even the best player on the West Coast.

“I thought our kids responded well once he was out, and once they got their groove back. And I thought they started playing like champions, and did a really good job when (Platt) was out.”

Yelm beat the Wolverines, 28-27, in last season’s Class 2A semifinals. Bellevue turned back the Tornados 37-20 in the state quarterfinals in 2018.

This time, Yelm never got past the Bellevue 11-yard line.

“For me, I’m just so happy with where the program’s at,” said Bellevue coach Michael Kneip, who at age 30 won his second state title in six years guiding the program after winning four as a player. “It’s just the type of kid we have, all the smiles on their faces. Man, to be able to rebuild that… our changes will change the world.”