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Bellevue edges Liberty 23-20, wins KingCo title | Prep Football

Bellevue survived a slow start to edge Liberty 23-20 and win the KingCo 3A/2A title Friday night.

The Patriots (6-3 overall, 5-2 KingCo 3A/2A) broke the scoreless tie when Chandler Jenkins scored on a 52-yard rush. Bellevue fumbled on the first play of its next drive and Liberty recovFor a few minutes it looked like Liberty would finally get over the hump. The Patriots were up 14-0 and playing shut-down defense. But as the game wore on Bellevue's youth overcame Liberty's injuries and the Wolverines came back to win 23-20 Friday night.

Liberty (6-3 overall, 5-2 KingCo 3A/2A) lost to Bellevue (8-1, 7-0) twice in 2009 with the second game coming in the 3A state championship game. Friday's win gave Bellevue the KingCo 3A/2A title and the league's top seed heading into the playoffs. Liberty finishes third.

"We got off to a good start and they battled back," said Liberty coach Steve Valach. "Whenever we play them, you can make so few errors because you end up paying for them."

Liberty scored first in this one when Chandler Jenkins ran home from 52 yards out early in the second quarter.

The Patriots recovered a Bellevue fumble on the first play of the next drive and Liberty's Noel Hamilton rumbled in for a 36-yard touchdown rush on the next play. Just like that, in about 30 seconds on game time Liberty broke the game wide open.

Liberty's defense finally showed its first cracks of the game when Bellevue got its initial first down of the game with about 10 minutes left in the second quarter. The Wolverines would score on that drive on a 46-yard touchdown run by Kendrick Van Ackeren.

Bellevue added two field goals from Mitch Johnson, the second from 43 yards, to pull closer and bring the score to 14-13 at the half.

The Wolverines showed a different look for much of the night, coming out in the shotgun instead of the run-centric Wing-T offense they employ most weeks.

"When you play a team this many times, they know us and they've prepped for us," said Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff. "We've got to be able to do different stuff."

Bellevue had more of a traditional look on its first drive of the second half. The team ran eight straight times and Latrell Dukes capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown rush. That gave Bellevue 20 straight points and a 20-14 lead.

Liberty responded with its own long drive, including 11 rushing plays before Trey Wheeler rushed in for a touchdown from five yards out. Liberty missed the extra point and left the game tied 20-20.

Jenkins rushed seven times on the drive for 51 yards. He finished the game with 172 yards on 25 rushes. It is the third straight game with at least 170 rushing yards from Jenkins.

"That's just adapting to personnel," Valach said. "The idea of spreading things out when you don't have one of the premier players in the state, it kind of changes your mentality."

Jenkins has carried the team on his back at times this season after star receiver Jake Bainton dislocated his shoulder in the Patriots first game of the season.

Bainton has played on and off, but without him Liberty isn't able to spread the ball around in the passing game.

Van Ackeren kept the Wolverines going with a huge momentum play on the next drive. It looked like the Patriots defense had him sacked for a big loss deep in Liberty territory, but he slipped numerous tackles and ran for 21 yards. The play changed what would have been a big field position advantage for Liberty.

"In those situations I just have to step up," Van Ackeren said. "When I don't see anybody open it's just instincts kicking in. I don't even know, I just do it."

Van Ackeren rushed for 84 yards and passed for 95 in the game. Dukes rushed 14 times for 25 yards. Joey Mangialardi rushed 13 times for 85 yards.

Johnson knocked in another field goal, this one from 23 yards out, with 3:27 left in the game to give Bellevue a 23-20 lead.

Wheeler drove the Patriots into Bellevue territory, but the comeback came up short.

Bellevue plays Bainbridge this weekend with a trip to the state playoffs on the line. Liberty plays Kennedy Catholic.ered.

Noel Hamilton scampered in for a 36-yard rushing touchdown the next play to put the Patriots up 14-0.

Bellevue (8-1, 7-0) finally got its offense moving (the Wolverines got their first first down with 10 minutes left in the second quarter) and put together a nine-play drive to answer Liberty. Kendrick Van Ackeren scored on a 46-yard rush.

Liberty lost a fumble on the next drive and Bellevue got a 35-yard field goal from Mitch Johnson bring the Wolverines within four points, 14-10.

Johnson later made another field goal from 43 yards. Latrelle Dukes scored on a one-yard rush mid-way through the third quarter to put Bellevue ahead 20-14.

Liberty tied the game when quarterback Trey Wheeler rolled out to his left and dove into the end zone from five yards out. The Patriots missed the extra point attempt.

Johnson made another field goal, this one from 23 yards out, with just over three minutes left in the game to put Bellevue ahead 23-20.

Liberty drove down to Bellevue's 34-yard line but Wheeler's pass to Jenkins in the end zone sailed just a few feet long and the Patriots turned the ball over on downs.

With star wide receiver Jake Bainton sidelined with an injury, Jenkins carried the load for Liberty on offense. He rushed 27 times for 177 yards. It is the third straight game of 175 or more rushing yards for Jenkins.

Both teams will advance to the play-in round of the 3A state playoffs next weekend.

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