The Lindbergh Eagles learned a valuable lesson Friday night at Wolverines Stadium: you can’t make mistakes against this Bellevue team.
What started off as a promising game for the Eagles – Lindbergh forced Bellevue to turn the ball over on downs on the opening drive, and quarterback Jake Allie passed for over 100 yards in the first quarter – quickly turned into a nightmare.
Bellevue converted two Lindbergh turnovers into touchdowns and the Wolverines knocked off the Eagles 35-6 in the opening round of the Class 3A state tournament.
The game was far from clean for both sides – Lindbergh turned the ball over four times and Bellevue (11-0) was penalized 11 times – but it was a familiar formula for a Bellevue win: the Wolverines capitalized on opponents’ mistakes and used the wing-T offense to wear down the defense.
With the game scoreless halfway through the first quarter, junior linebacker John Kanongataa forced and recovered a Lindbergh fumble deep in Eagles territory and three plays later, Peter Nguyen ran 18 yards into the end zone for the game’s opening points. On Lindbergh’s following drive, Kanongataa intercepted Allie and Bellevue grinded out an 11-play scoring drive that saw Freddie Levine take the ball in from five yards out.
“Those turnovers are big,” Goncharoff said. “That’s the name of the game, getting turnovers and keeping the ball.”
Once the Eagles (8-3) got behind, they virtually abandoned the running game, and instead relied on the arm of Allie, who entered the game having thrown 31 touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior threw the ball on 15 of Lindbergh’s 19 first-half offensive plays and only one of the four times the Eagles ran the ball was the play a designed run.
“They have a great quarterback and good receivers so we knew they were going to throw the ball,” Goncharoff said.
David Nguyen added to Bellevue’s lead with a 15-yard run late in the first half, and scored again on a 14-yard run in the third quarter to give Bellevue a 27-0 lead. Will Fields completed the scoring for the Wolverines when he ran the ball in from two-yards out; an errant snap on the point-after led to a successful two-point conversion for Bellevue by safety Cam Warren, who also intercepted Allie in the first quarter.
“He’s an all-league player and he played like it tonight,” Goncharoff said.
Allie finished 18-of-27 for 183 yards and three interceptions. His 12-yard pass to Derek Herley provided Lindbergh’s only points of the game. Eagles running back David Valentine rushed for 50 yards on nine carries.
David Nguyen led all rushers with 138 yards on eight carries and the two touchdowns.
“Our team needs to get a hell of a lot smarter,” Goncharoff said. “If we want to take a shot at this thing, we’ve got to get smarter… we looked like we felt we’d score a touchdown on every play instead of running hard downhill, and it hurt us.”
With the win, Bellevue moves onto the quarterfinals, where they’ll face a familiar conference foe in Liberty, who scored three touchdowns in the final 16:10 of the game and stunned 9-1 Kennedy 21-17.
Bellevue beat Liberty 24-7 on Oct. 24 in a game in which the Wolverines were challenged like they hadn’t been all season.
“We haven’t played our best football yet and it will be scary when we do,” Goncharoff said. “The clock is ticking.”