Wolverines are peaking at the right time

Bellevue defense pitches a shutout against Mercer Island.

A stingy performance on the defensive side of the ball propelled the Bellevue Wolverines football team to a victory against the Mercer Island Islanders in the regular season finale.

Bellevue intercepted Mercer Island quarterback Clay Dippold five times, en route to a 47-0 win against Mercer Island on Oct. 26 at Mercer Island High School. The Wolverines finished the regular season with an overall record of 9-0. Mercer Island managed just one first down in the first half of play.

Bellevue left cornerback Jalen Love, who had two interceptions in the game, got his team on the board first on a 61-yard interception return for a touchdown with 6:58 left in the first quarter, giving the Wolverines a 7-0 lead. Love, who muffed a punt early in the first quarter, wasn’t rattled by his early game mistake.

“We always talk in practice about being able to just bounce back. My teammates just encouraged me and brought me right back up to where I needed to be,” Love said.

With 11:54 remaining in the second quarter, Bellevue quarterback Joey Echigoshima scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge, extending the lead to 14-0. With 3:32 left in the first half, Bellevue junior running back Alex Reid scored on a 4-yard touchdown run, lengthening the lead to 21-0. The Wolverines scored their second defensive touchdown courtesy of a Hunter Hansen 45-yard interception return for a touchdown, giving the Wolverines a commanding 27-0 lead with 2:59 left before halftime. Reid scored his second touchdown of the night on a 8-yard touchdown scamper with 1:29 left in the second quarter to round out the scoring frenzy with Bellevue comfortably ahead 35-0 at halftime.

In the second half, Bellevue defenders Jack Kruger and Nick Bowar had an interception apiece, helping preserve the shutout. Bellevue running back Dan Marino had a 25-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter for the final touchdown of the night.

Bellevue head coach Michael Kneip wasn’t surprised in the least bit by his team’s stalwart showing on the defensive side of the ball. It was Bellevue’s fourth shutout of the season and the second game in a row where they didn’t allow a single point.

“We pride ourselves on being a defensive program. Everyone looks at our offense but our defense usually is what carries us,” Kneip said. “I was really impressed tonight with coach (Garrett) Cook and our whole defensive staff. We’ve played very well over the past couple of weeks. Drew (Fowler) did great, Hunter (Hansen) did great. All of the seniors played really well. I’m really proud of our guys.”

The Wolverines will host Shorecrest in their first playoff game on Nov. 2 or Nov. 3 at Bellevue Memorial Stadium in a loser-out contest.

“I’m confident. This is perfect right here. We are just starting to roll going into the playoffs. We got everybody back and healthy. I can’t wait to play Shorecrest this week,” Love said.

The Wolverines are definitely heading into the playoffs with a chip on their proverbial shoulders.

“We hope to be peaking at the right time. I think a lot of people are underestimating us which is perfect. We love that. Let us lay in the weeds and see what happens when they line up against us,” Kneip said of the postseason.