Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff says "when they're on, they're awesome."
Bellevue’s defense is good. Really good, in fact. Even with the divisions among high-school football fans, you’d have to search long and hard to find anyone who disagreed.
Yet the Wolverines have been billed as more than good or really good. They’ve been talked about in terms of dominance, one of the most subjective terms in the sports vernacular.
How about this for dominance: In 11 games against in-state opponents this season, including one game against Class 4A Bothell, Bellevue’s defense has allowed just six points in the first three quarters of games.
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“We do have a tremendous amount of talent on defense,” Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff said.
The Wolverines have allowed 62 points all season, or 5.2 points per game. More than a third of those (24) came in the season opener against Trinity from Euless, Texas, a Lone Star power still playing in that state’s 5A playoffs. Thirty-one points have come in the fourth quarter, when Bellevue’s starters are long gone.
The Wolverines have not allowed a touchdown against an in-state team before the fourth quarter. They have as many shutouts (six) as points allowed before the fourth quarter against Washington opponents.
“There’s a lot of experienced guys on this team, especially defensively,” Goncharoff said. “We have a lot of guys that have played a lot of football, and it shows.”
It starts with the familiar names. Linebacker Myles Jack had six sacks in the first half against Lincoln of Tacoma. Defensive tackle Darien Freeman controls the line of scrimmage. Safety Budda Baker returned two interceptions for touchdowns in one game.
And that doesn’t even include linebacker Sean Constantine, a three-year starter committed to Washington, or Michael Carlson, who scored two defensive touchdowns in a game, or Nathan DeRider, the team’s leading tackler.
“I still don’t think they’ve realized their potential yet,” Goncharoff said.
Although extremely talented, the Wolverines are prone to lapses that are uncharacteristic of previous Bellevue teams, Goncharoff said. On one drive against Mount Si, Bellevue’s defense racked up five penalties, including two personal fouls.
“I don’t know if it’s a boredom thing or we’re lucky enough or talented enough to get away with it or what,” he said. “But with this being the end of the year, we need to snap out of it and get better.
“Our lapses come when we don’t communicate and don’t do little things. When you have some experience, it’s good and it’s bad. Sometimes they’re tired of hearing the stories. But when they’re on, they’re awesome.”
That’s been the case more often than not.
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org