Bellevue not perfectly sharp, but still a 38-6 winner over Juanita
Wolverines push winning streak to 60 games
Special to The Seattle Times
It only looked in question for about the first six minutes, but this was far from perfect. Bellevue, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A and No. 9 in the MaxPreps national rankings, did its thing in the end with a 38-6 victory over Juanita and pushed its winning streak to 60 games despite a lack of precision.
Now, the Wolverines (6-0 overall, 3-0 KingCo 2A/3A) will put their long streak to the test against unbeaten Liberty (6-0, 4-0) next Friday.
Juanita (5-1, 3-1), which played its third game without injured starting quarterback Tavin Montgomery (torn ACL in right knee), lost one of its two running backs – Austin Cole – to a leg injury with just less than four minutes left in the first quarter and he never returned.
How it happened
The Wolverines used four interceptions, including ones returned for touchdowns by Jack Michael and Mustafa Branch, and overcame 16 penalties for 165 yards in a rare sloppy performance. Bellevue outgained Juanita 232 yards to 88 in total offense, limiting the Rebels to 13 yards rushing. The defense earned this victory. Juanita lost its quarterback Dexter Mell to a likely broken collarbone on a hit early in the third quarter and senior Nick Peterson took his first varsity snaps since his sophomore year.
Play of the game
Mustafa Branch caught the ball in the middle of the field and figured it was just another typical interception. But, once teammate Isaiah Gilchrist threw a nice block, the Stanford-bound Branch was off the races for a 39-yard interception return for touchdown, the first of his high-school career. He raced right and then back left and down the left sideline and into the end zone to make it 31-0 with 10:50 left in the third quarter.
Jack Michael stepped in front of an errant pass from Juanita quarterback Dexter Mell, cut outside and jetted down the right sideline for a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown with just 0.4 seconds showing before halftime. It was the Wolverines’ third interception of the first half and pretty much ended the Rebels’ chances.
Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff: “We had a feeling this game was going to be tough. If you look at it, we really didn’t run an offensive play until the fourth quarter. We had the ball the whole first quarter, but we scored 21 points on turnovers. That’s big.”
On Juanita not using a punter and going for every fourth-down chance: “That’s his decision. He knows his team better than me. It is what it is. Those turned into huge plays for us. It was good for us.”
On passing 12 times, which is out of character: “It’s kind of high school 101, to make teams one-dimensional. We’re working on it.”
On penalties: “Every week is a concern. These guys are learning the hard way. The problem is you really figure it out, and then you’re still out of the playoffs. It’s back to watching film. It’s not a ton of holding call, but it’s just mental mistakes.”
On the lack of precision: “It was sloppy. The nice thing is, to be play that sloppy, and to win 38-6, it’s a good thing. So, I mean, it will be scary what we look like when we play well. We played well in Game 1.”
Bellevue linebacker Mustafa Branch: “We just have to fix those penalties. Eventually we’re going to pay for those penalties. Whatever it takes, we’re going to have to fix that. That’s terrible. Something’s going to have to change. I say it’s a win, but we can’t be too happy about it.”
On his interception: “I’ve had a pick, but on varsity I’ve never taken it to the house. I catch it and I’m running down the side and I see Isaiah Gilchrist make the nicest block. He’s completely the reason I scored on that play.”
Juanita coach Shaun Tarantola: “We weren’t able keep up that intensity for four quarters and we had some bad things happen. We lost our No. 2 quarterback [Dexter Mell] probably for the season. I haven’t lost a quarterback coaching in 15 years for the season ever, and we lost two in our last three games. Sometimes, it’s just bad luck.”
“We have a great opportunity for everyone to step up and make something happen the rest of the season. Felt like we had opportunities. Sometimes the margin of error is so small when you are playing a really quality. We just made some mistakes on the little things where it got away from us. We didn’t put our quarterback in a good situation tonight.”
“We’re going get better from this.”