Bellevue crushes Liberty 35-7
December 9, 2008
By Jim Feehan
Liberty High School’s magic carpet ride season came to a halt Nov. 22 when the top-ranked Bellevue Wolverines downed the Patriots 35-7 in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
Bellevue running back Peter Nguyen rushed for 253 on 23 carries and scored the Wolverines’ first three touchdowns.
For the first 23 minutes of the game, Liberty (9-3) played Bellevue close, with the Wolverines up by only a touchdown. But with 20 seconds remaining in the first half, Nguyen scored on a 32-yard run to put the Wolverines up 14-0 at halftime.
Bellevue scored on its next three possessions to put the Wolverines up 35-0. With 11 seconds remaining, Liberty sophomore quarterback Trey Wheeler connected with sophomore running back Chandler Jenkins on a 22-yard pass and run to avert the shutout.
“There’s a reason they’ve won five state championships,” Liberty coach Steve Valach said of the Wolverines state titles since 2001. “They’re just so strong, so well-coached and their kids are so well-disciplined.
“I’m really proud of our team,” he added. “We conducted ourselves with class. I thought we played hard. I think we gave it all we had. I just think Bellevue is better.”
Two long throws by Wheeler to sophomore wide receiver Jake Bainton and senior wide receiver Richard Crespo put the Patriots on the Bellevue 17. The Wolverines defense held the Patriots on the next three plays, leading to a Liberty field goal attempt by senior kicker Keegan Bennett. Bellevue senior Jamal Atofau slipped between two Liberty players and blocked it.
Nguyen carried four times for 64 yards in Bellevue’s opening drive. With fourth down and 2 from the Bellevue 38, the Wolverines elected to go for it and Nguyen ripped off 20 yards. With 6:19 remaining in the first quarter, Nguyen scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to put Bellevue up 7-0.
On Liberty’s next possession, the Patriots marched down the field. Wheeler ran for 11 yards on a quarterback keeper, and later connected with Jenkins on a 24-yard pass as the Patriots entered the red zone one more time. But Bellevue senior linebacker Eric Nelson intercepted a Wheeler pass with 3:23 remaining in the half. Wheeler completed 15 of 31 passes for 182 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Liberty’s high octane rushing attack was held to 23 yards on 22 carries.
With a little over three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Liberty moved down the field to the Bellevue 2. A procedure penalty moved the ball to the 7. Bellevue senior defensive back Sean Connors intercepted a Wheeler pass in the end zone.
Bellevue’s Atofau scored on a 10-yard run with 10:44 remaining and Bellevue junior Will Fields collected the Wolverines’ final score with 7:27 remaining.
Bellevue (13-0) defeated Capital of Olympia 28-6 Dec. 1 at the Tacoma Dome and face Union in the state finals Dec. 6.
Despite Liberty’s loss, Valach said he is looking forward to the 2009 season.
“We obviously have a good group of underclassmen, and the great thing is the seniors really modeled the leadership piece well,” he said. “They made it less about me and more about team.”