Cougars roar into 4A state football final

Bothell beats Woodinville, 31-21, in semifinals.

After all the players had shaken hands following the Bothell versus Woodinville 4A state football semifinal, a bevy of Cougars turned and bolted for their fan section of the grandstands.

A few people standing on the field had to jump out of the players’ path en route to their raucous celebration.

The only collisions were saved for the run of play, during which Bothell defeated Woodinville, 31-21, on Saturday at a packed Pop Keeney Stadium. Fifth-seeded Bothell (11-2) advances to the championship game against second-seeded Camas (13-0) at 4 p.m. Dec. 7 at Mount Tahoma Stadium in Tacoma. Camas beat Mount Si, 35-14, in the other semifinal on Saturday.

“We knew that it was gonna be a big game and everybody was gonna come out, so I think it was the fact that we stayed calm and we just played our game,” said Bothell running back/linebacker Tala Tevaga, who had a touchdown and a sack on the day. “We knew it was gonna be a dogfight, so we just had to dominate in the trenches at every aspect, from offense, defense and special teams.”

Bothell, which won its only state title in 2014, burst out to a 14-0 lead on an 11-yard run from Tevaga and a fumble recovery and 42-yard return from Ryan Metz, the latter play with 1:47 left in the first quarter.

Woodinville inched close, 14-7, on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Noah Stifle to Daniel Bacon at the end of the first quarter.

Cougar Christian Galvan gave Bothell a 21-7 lead as he blasted into the end zone untouched from 28 yards out with 2:07 left in the first half. Charlie Shulkin converted his third of four PATs on the day.

Galvan, who worked through an upper-calf-area injury this season, ran as strong as ever against Woodinville, a team the Cougars beat, 33-29, on Oct. 11.

“It feels awesome. Just to know that you’re so well-prepared for times like these,” Galvan said of the semifinal triumph. “We’re very grateful, we’re very blessed to have this type of opportunity. This team, we have a ton of potential. It’s fate, it’s destiny. Nothing was given to us, everything was earned.”

Bothell went up 28-7 on an Andrew Sirmon 8-yard quarterback keeper with 6:12 left in the third quarter. With Bothell threatening to go up even more, Woodinville’s Cage Schenck recovered a blocked 38-yard field-goal attempt and ran 72 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-14 with 1:15 left in the third.

Shulkin hit a 35-yarder with 6:42 left in the game, and Woodinville made the score 31-21 on a Schenck 21-yard touchdown reception with 4:41 remaining following a Falcon fumble recovery.

On fourth-and-4 after the Cougars recovered the ensuing onside kick, Sirmon faked his punt and ran for a first down. Sirmon ran for another first down on fourth-and-2 to seal the win.

Sirmon never stopped running on the day and was spotted darting — while still wearing his helmet — from the bus area back to the locker room after the game.

On defense for Bothell, Blake Bickhaus and Branden Bird snagged interceptions and the Cougars put the clamps on Woodinville’s offense time and time again.

Bickhaus chipped in on Bothell’s first scoring drive with a pair of 13-yard catches and Galvan had an 11-yard run. Galvan had a 37-yard pass reception and an 8-yard run to help set up Sirmon’s touchdown run.

Bothell head coach Tom Bainter discussed the electric atmosphere at Pop Keeney Stadium, which was standing-room-only at a capacity of 5,509 fans strong.

“This is the greatest place in the world to play. You know, it’s funny, once the game starts, you forget where you are, you forget what color jerseys you have — you just play football. It was absolutely wonderful,” Bainter said.

Added Tevaga: “Sometimes it seems kind of overwhelming. It’s crazy to beat a great team like that twice. It’s hard to beat ‘em once. Aah, I’m excited, I can’t wait… We’ve all been dreaming about this moment and finally it’s here in the palm of our hands.”

Bothell’s Ryan Metz returns a fumble for a touchdown in the 4A state semifinal against Woodinville. Photo courtesy of Greg Nelson

Bothell’s Ryan Metz returns a fumble for a touchdown in the 4A state semifinal against Woodinville. Photo courtesy of Greg Nelson