Sports

Gridders get the champs

The Bainbridge football team has done well over the season and made it into the playoffs.

The Spartans’ reward, however, is a road trip to Bellevue, where they will play one of the best teams in the state regardless of classification. Game time is 7 p.m. Friday.

To get the pleasure of doing battle with the defending state champs, the Spartans defeated Nathan Hale 24-6 in a Metro League crossover game Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Seattle.

"I thought we played all right," head coach Andy Grimm said. "(We were) coming off a big psychological win last week and Nathan Hale is a well-coached team, but I knew we were the better team. They did a nice job shutting some things down but we were still able to do what we do."

Senior fullback Corey Touchette led the way with 27 carries for 162 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 22 yards.

He scored on runs of 37 yards in the first quarter, two yards in the second quarter (which was set up by a long run from Alex Crane) and three yards in the third.

“The middle was wide open all day,” Touchette said. “The line just opened it up.”

Defensively, the Spartans held the Raiders to 181 yards of total offense. They also forced four turnovers, three of which came on fumble recoveries by Chris Hurlow, Alec Grimm and Paimon Jaberi. Alex Coplan also intercepted a pass. Bainbridge nearly had a fifth but it was called back on a penalty.

“Our defense shut it down,” Touchette said. “That was really nice to see. They run a Wing-T like us, but our lineman clogged the holes and the linebackers filled the gaps.”

Now comes one of the biggest games in school history as Bainbridge tries to upset one of the best teams in recent memory.

Grimm said they’ll have to have the same mindset as when they play O’Dea – control the clock, limit turnovers and play outstanding defense.

“(Touchette) is going to have to work hard and the line is going to have to work hard to get any yardage this week,” he said. “But it will be a fun challenge and that’s what we told the kids Friday. If you don’t believe you can do it, don’t show up this week.

“(Besides), when do you get to play games like this?” Grimm continued.

Touchette said the team is thinking upset.

“We’re going to play our game,” he said. “We can’t do anything else but play our game.

“Crazier things have happened,” Touchette continued. “I want to say we have a chance and if we come out fighting we have a chance. Anything can happen on any given Friday.”

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BETTER KNOW A TEAM: Bellevue Wolverines

2010 Record: 7-0 Kingco Conference, 8-1 overall

What they did last season: Won the 3A state championship with a 23-17 victory over Liberty. It was Bellevue’s second straight 3A title and their seventh state title in the last nine years.

By the numbers: What stands out about the Wolverines is they’ve allowed 55 points in the first half all season and have outrushed their opponents by almost 1,500 yards.

The Bainbridge Review spoke with Joel Willits, sports reporter from the Bellevue Reporter, about Friday’s game. Find updates from the game at our Twitter account:

The Bainbridge Review: How does this team compare to past playoff teams — does it have a shot at repeating as 3A champs?

Willits: This Bellevue team is lot younger than any year I’ve covered since I started here. They have several sophomores who put in major varsity time at important positions. Though young, this team has picked up the tradition of Bellevue football quickly. They hit hard and finish plays. They do not quit. Typical Bellevue staples.

This team has more than a chance to repeat. I think they are clearly the favorites to win Class 3A, although it will be closer than years past. It’s not wise to bet against Bellevue in the playoffs.

BR: What are the Wolverines good at? Who are their best players?

W: It all starts with the system, and Bellevue is very, very good at running their Wing-T. That’s the key to surviving their injuries, even to their best players. They seemingly can plug any of their backs in the backfield and still have success running the football. Offensively, their best player is senior quarterback Kendrick Van Ackeren. Van Ackeren is a speedy playmaker who is a threat to score anytime he touches the football. Explosive. Big. Tough. He is a Division-I caliber athlete and is probably even better on defense, where he plays safety. Other players to watch for are RBs Joey Mangialardi (bruising runner), Ari Morales (speedy sophomore who can bust out 90-yard runs) and Latrelle Dukes (their workhorse who gains the tough yards). Watch for OL Marcus Henry, a big Boise State recruit who opens up big holes. Defensively, Van Ackeren and Tyler Hasty are talented DBs.

BR: Does Bellevue have any weaknesses?

W: Well, you’d say youth, but then they haven’t been slowed down by that yet. Sometimes they rack up a bunch of procedure and holding penalties and that can slow down their drives.

BR: What can Bainbridge do to win this game?

W: They have to limit Bellevue’s success running the football and take advantage of their offensive possessions. Bellevue is at its best when it plows out long, methodical, clock-killing drives that really limit the amount of times opponents get the football. Then, when opponents do force Bellevue to punt, they find themselves facing one of the state’s toughest defenses. When teams get down by 14 or more to Bellevue, it’s usually game over.

BR: What is your prediction?

W: 45-10 Bellevue. Wolverines have rarely been challenged in the round of 32 in the past.

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