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Bellevue after another 3A state crown | Prep spring football
Spring football has concluded around Bellevue, with teams set for summer conditioning and team camps before fall practice opens in late August.
The Reporter takes a look at each of the four public school squads, with this last installment checking in on the six-time defending 3A state champs from Bellevue.
2013 season: The Wolverines captured another 3A state title, their sixth straight, beating Eastside Catholic in the championship game for the second straight year and finishing another undefeated campaign.
Early outlook: The prognosis for a seventh straight state title is a good one, as a host of returning stars lead a team with a championship pedigree. What's more, the top conference contender in recent years — Mount Si — moves to Class 4A in 2014, leaving an even thinner KingCo field to challenge the Wolverines.
The biggest test of the year will likely come in the season opener against Serra (Gardena, Calif) in the Honor Bowl in Oceanside, Calif.
Bellevue has handily beaten each and every in-state foe it has faced while running up a winning streak that will soon approach national records.
Eastside Catholic has a standout junior quarterback with a bevy of state playoff experience, but the Wolverines came up with defensive stops and big plays at every turn in a blowout win in the 2013 state title game.
All-KingCo losses: First team offense: Morgan Richey, OL; Chris Medzegian, OL; Marcus Griffin, OL (Lineman of the Year); First team defense: Griffin, DL; Shane Bowman, DL; Timmy Haehl, DB; Budda Baker, DB (Defensive Player of the Year); Second team defense: Rio Morales, LB; Special teams: Baker, Punt returner, Kick returner of the year; Jack Michael, special teams Player of the Year
All-KingCo returners: First team offense: Sam Richmond, RB; Second team offense: Henry Roberts, OL; Isaiah Gilchrist, DB
Biggest question: Can Bellevue replace dynamic playmaking ability of departed superstar Baker?
The Wolverines lose another Pac-12 bound standout in Washington Husky Budda Baker, but have plenty of experience replacing superstar talent in recent years after losing the likes of Myles Jack (UCLA) and Sean Constantine (UW), among others.
Head coach Butch Goncharoff was always quick to heap praise upon the U.S. Army All-American Baker throughout his career, but will turn to a new crop of playmakers in order to run their state title streak to seven and continue on a winning streak that stands at 54 consecutive games.
That task begins with another high-profile contest against an out-of-state foe, this time southern California private school power Serra (Gardena), and its more than two-dozen Division I prospects.
"They are the most talented team I've ever seen," Goncharoff said. "It will be fun. We're excited."
Rising junior quarterback Justus Rogers takes the helm of the offense from Harvard-bound Timmy Haehl, and brings an even more lethal blend of athleticism and aerial ability to the position.
"We think he might be the best guy we've ever had there," Goncharoff said of Rogers. "He has improved dramatically."
Protecting Rogers, running back Sam Richmond and a host of other dynamic playmakers will be an offensive line well-versed in the Bellevue tradition of owning the trenches.
Alec Palendar, a fourth place finisher at 220 pounds in the 3A state wrestling tournament, and Henry Roberts are back as starters along the offensive line. Goncharoff said the mentality of that position group has become a constant within the program.
"They have a lot of pride," he said. "There's always that deal to playing offensive line here at Bellevue."
Ross Connors, an All-State selection on defense as a junior last year, returns to help anchor the notoriously stingy unit that has in many ways supplanted the program's Wing-T identity.
While the offense has steadily evolved from its run-based roots, Bellevue's defense has become the driving force behind a run of dominance.
The Wolverines allowed more than 14 points only twice last year, both in the playoffs, and even then the scoring came mostly after the outcome had been decided.
Unless the Crusaders can solve the Bellevue riddle, or another capable contender emerges from the shadows in Class 3A, the story will likely be similar in 2014.