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Bellevue beats Lakes 35-7 to advance to 3A title game | Slideshow
An unusual week of practice led to an uncharacteristic first quarter for the Bellevue football team.
Due to the weather and school cancellations, the Wolverines were only able to hold two practices this week. The disruption of their normal schedule was evident in the first quarter of Friday's semifinal matchup with Lakes at the Tacoma Dome.
Bellevue fumbled twice in the quarter, including once at the Lancers' 10-yard line. With the timing of the Wing-T offense off, the No.1 Wolverines looked vulnerable.
Then came the second quarter. The Wolverines ripped off 28 straight points and stepped up defensively, cruising to a 35-7 win over Lakes that returns the team to the Class 3A state championship game for the eighth time in 10 seasons.
The early struggles were in part to the odd practice schedule, said Bellevue senior quarterback Kendrick Van Ackeren. But it was also partly due to the fact that for many of the Wolverine starters, it was their first time seeing action under the bright lights of the Tacoma Dome.
"It might have been the jitters, I just think it takes getting used to the turf," said Van Ackeren. "A lot of our guys haven't played at the dome...but we fixed things."
Did they ever. After each team turned the ball over twice in the first quarter (Bellevue with two fumbles, Lakes with two interceptions), the Wolverines struck first.
One play after Michael Foreman intercepted Lancers quarterback Cedric Dozier to end the first quarter, Van Ackeren rolled out to his right and hit a wide-open Joey Moore streaking downfield on the left side for a 35-yard touchdown.
"For some reason the first time we run that play during a game, our receivers are wide open," Van Ackeren said. "They think I'm rolling out and they just leave the backside open."
While Lakes' next three drives ended in punts, Bellevue's ended with scores. Latrelle Dukes scored on a 6-yard run, Myles Jack went untouched for a 53-yard touchdown run and Van Ackeren hit Evian Richard for a picture-perfect 29-yard touchdown pass.
"We didn't start very well; we came out and we missed plays and we didn't play the way we like to play," said Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff. "But then they gave us some things and we took advantage of them over the top."
Lakes finally broke through with 5:40 left in the third quarter. Dozier evaded two Bellevue defenders and scrambled around the right side for a 17-yard touchdown run. Dozier, who had passed and ran for more than 1,100 yards this season, rushed for just 36 yards in the game. Lakes junior running back Levonte Littlejohn, who had piled up 1,927 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, was limited to 65 yards Friday night against the Bellevue (12-1) defense.
"They've gotten better, because early in the year we struggled defensively, there's no doubt about that," Goncharoff said. "They've been flying around and making plays and making stops and we need that."
Jack finished up the game's scoring with an 18-yard touchdown with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter. It was the second touchdown for Jack, who rushed for 113 yards on 10 carries. Dukes racked up 104 yards on 16 carries for the Wolverines, while Van Ackeren passed for 79 yards. Bellevue totaled 372 yards rushing.
"This win wasn't perfect," said Bellevue senior lineman Marcus Henry, a Boise State recruit. "We're doing better every week and this week of practice has to be great for us to win next week."
Lakes ends its season 11-2. Bellevue will play the winner of tomorrow's 1 p.m. semifinal game between Kamiakin and Capital.