BY ERIK ERICKSON
Andrew Sirmon, Tala Tevaga, and Christian Galvan each ran for touchdowns, and Bothell forced three Woodinville turnovers to earn a 31-21 victory in an All-Kingco 4A football state semifinal matchup at a sold-out Pop Keeney Stadium on Saturday.
The Cougars picked off Woodinville quarterback Noah Stifle twice in the second half, and despite their own miscues, controlled the clock to earn their fourth state title berth in program history and first since 2014, where they defeated Chiawana 24-14.
“Our guys are in and they do it for each other,” Bothell head coach Tom Bainter said. “That makes you as good as you can be, and then you let the chips fall.”
Here are five takeaways from the 4A state semifinal matchup between Bothell and Woodinville:
Bothell played ball control in the second half
Holding a 21-7 lead at halftime, the Cougars gave Woodinville minimal chances to score by keeping the ball for the majority of the second half. Bothell put together drives of 12, 9, 15, and 11 plays in the second half, limiting the Falcons to just nine offensive plays over the final two quarters.
Bothell’s opening drive of the second half spanned 12 plays for 80 yards, capped by a 7-yard TD run by Sirmon.
Sirmon ended any hopes of a comeback for the Falcons by keeping the ball on a fake punt and gaining eight yards to move the chains with just over three minutes to play. Facing a 4th and four from the Woodinville 47, Sirmon saw an open area, took the snap, and went untouched down the Bothell sideline for an easy first down.
“The run is always an option on that, but I’d never taken it,” Sirmon said. “I knew it was a big play in the game, and we wanted to keep the ball. We didn’t want to give it back to them.”
Bothell’s defense stymied the Falcons
The Cougars controlled the ball on offense but their defense provided plenty of power, forcing three turnovers including a fumble returned for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Ryan Metz recovered Joey Johnson’s first quarter fumbled and scampered 36 yards to score and give Bothell a 14-0 lead.
Blake Bickhaus and Branden Bird each picked off passes in the second half, leading to three Bothell points.
“Proud of all our kids,” Bainter said. “… I’m just proud of our kids all the way around.”
Woodinville’s special teams and defense kept them in contention
The Falcons couldn’t muster much offensively after halftime but got big plays from their special teams and defense to stay within striking distance. Woodinville cut the Bothell lead to 28-14 in the 3rd quarter when Charlie Shulkin’s 38-yard field goal attempt was blocked and recovered by Cage Schenck, who ran 75 yards to the endzone.
The Cougars gave the Falcons hope once more in the fourth quarter when Galvan fumbled in Bothell territory. Woodinville recovered, and on the ensuing play, Stifle found Schneck in the back of the endzone for a 21-yard touchdown.
There was no shortage of excitement in the first quarter
Neither the Cougars or Falcons showed many nerves in the opening quarter as the two teams combined for a plethora of big plays and three touchdowns.
Metz’s scoop and score was the first fireworks of the quarter, which followed the game’s opening touchdown, a 9-yard TD run from Tevaga to cap an 8-play, 57-yard drive.
But the Falcons bounced back from Johnson’s blunder with a scoring drive of their own. After a pair of penalties led to Woodinville facing a 2nd and 23 from their own 11, Stifle hit tight end Carter Smith down the middle, and Smith scampered to the five yard line before being dragged down for a 75-yard gain. Stifle found Daniel Bacon on the next play for a 5-yard TD, cutting the Bothell lead to 14-7.
One more for it all
The Cougars will go for their second state title when they take on Camas at 4 p.m. Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School.
“In the summer, you set goals for the team, and you always dream of getting here,” Sirmon said. “… Now that we are here, we are this close. It’s a great feeling.”
The Falcons finish the season 11-2, with both losses coming against the Cougars. Bothell scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to earn a 33-29 victory against Woodinville on October 11.
“It’s unfortunate we’ve got to go home, but I’m very proud of the season we had,” Woodinville head coach Wayne Maxwell said.