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Originally published November 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 29, 2008 at 7:25 PM

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Wolverines regroup after bus accident

The task now for the Bellevue High School football team is to regroup after its bus accident and prepare for Monday's delayed Class 3A state semifinal game against Capital of Olympia.

Seattle Times staff reporters

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The task now for the Bellevue High School football team is to regroup after its bus accident and prepare for Monday's delayed Class 3A state semifinal game against Capital of Olympia.

At today's practice, the Wolverines will assess how many players will either miss Monday's game or be game-time decisions as to whether they play.

"We may be down a few starters, probably two or three, but we'll know more tomorrow," said one assistant coach Friday night who didn't want to be named.

The assistant said two players were being monitored for possible concussions and some players "have really sore backs." He said some players said they had two or three teammates land on them in the crash.

The chartered bus carrying Bellevue starters crashed and overturned on Interstate 5 near Des Moines on Saturday morning as it drove south to the Tacoma Dome to play in a 1 p.m. semifinal game.

The four-vehicle accident occurred when a ladder fell off a pickup truck onto the roadway and the bus swerved to avoid it.

The semifinal between the top-ranked Wolverines (12-0) and Capital (9-3) was rescheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood, near Tacoma. The Tacoma Dome isn't available for Monday's game because of cleanup following Sunday's AC/DC concert, said Mike Colbrese, executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

The 3A championship game is being moved from Friday night to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. The 4A championship, originally scheduled for the 4 p.m. Saturday slot, moves to Friday at 7:30 p.m. The change gives the winner of Monday's semifinal more time to prepare for the title game.

Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff suffered injuries in the accident. He wasn't returning phone calls but was believed to have scouted Friday night's 28-7 semifinal victory by Union of Vancouver over Lakes of Lakewood.

Goncharoff said at the accident scene that he had "a lot of beat-up kids."

Capital players were at the Tacoma Dome when Colbrese told their coach, John Johnson, about the accident. Johnson said his players held a team prayer.

"The football game wasn't the most important thing at that point in time anymore," Johnson said.

The bus carrying Bellevue reserves was traveling ahead of the bus with starters and players didn't learn of the accident immediately. There was immediate anxiety, especially among boys with brothers on the other bus, but it diminished with the news that there were no serious injuries.

The Bellevue bus accident is the second crash involving a Seattle-area high-school team to make headlines in the past eight months.

Twenty-one members of the Garfield softball varsity and junior-varsity teams and a coach were hospitalized with minor injuries in April when the 12-foot tall chartered bus in which they were riding back from a game in Kirkland crashed into a 9-foot underpass in the Washington Park Arboretum. The Garfield bus driver was looking at his GPS device instead of warning signs and lights at the time of the accident, according to Seattle police.

The worst bus accident in state history involving a team was the 1946 crash of a bus carrying the Spokane Indians professional baseball team, on Snoqualmie Pass, according to Marc Blau, assistant executive director of the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame. Eight players and a player-manager died from the crash.

Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or csmith@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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