SNOHOMISH — If Glacier Peak is going to pull off the biggest upset in Washington state high school football this season, the Grizzlies will have to do it with defense.
Undefeated and No. 1-ranked Bellevue — GP’s opponent in tonight’s 3A state playoff game — has scored at least 38 points in each of its 10 victories this season. The Wolverines’ closest game so far was a 38-14 dismantling of Juanita on Oct. 4.
Luckily for the Grizzlies, defense has been their strength of late. Glacier Peak forced nine turnovers — six interceptions and three fumble recoveries — in last week’s 28-3 quad-district playoff victory over Wilson. Glacier Peak coach Rory Rosenbach said he couldn’t remember a team forcing nine turnovers in a game before.
In addition to a sound defense, there are two other factors Rosenbach and his staff hope add up to an upset tonight.
First, over the past two years the five-time defending state champion Wolverines haven’t played a closer in-state game than their 28-17 victory over the Grizzlies in the 2011 quad-district playoffs. The Grizzlies liked their game plan that night and saw a lot of things on film that they say can help them keep things close again.
Second, several of the coaches on the Grizzlies’ staff, including defensive coordinator Steve Hannan, have studied under some of the state’s most knowledgeable proponents of the wing-T offense, which Bellevue runs better than anyone.
“I think we have a unique situation in that we’ve got some guys who are pretty familiar with what they do,” Rosenbach said. “I feel like we’re going to have a really good plan. Can we execute the plan? That’s why we play the game.”
Wilson played last week without its starting quarterback and running back and the Grizzlies took advantage. Forming a plan against a Bellevue team that has little to no weaknesses should prove more difficult.
“Every team presents its challenges,” Hannan said. “So I think what you try to do is find out what they do really well and what do we do defensively that’s within our defense that will help take that away.”
The Grizzlies were relatively successful two years ago and the coaching staff hopes to do even better tonight.
“We looked at the film and knew what our plan was two years ago and we liked what we did,” Rosenbach said. “We just said, ‘Hey, we can execute this. If we can execute what we want to accomplish this year, you guys can make plays against them.’ Can we make enough? That’s what we’ll find out.”
Hannan’s tutelage under former Bellevue head coach Dwayne Hatch and current Wolverines’ offensive-line coach Pat Jones certainly can’t hurt the Grizzlies in their preparations.
“We’re fortunate that we know their terminology and the plays that they want to run,” Hannan said. “It’s all been confirmed by the film. So we think we know what they’re going to do to us. They’ll have some wrinkles for us, I’m sure, that we’ll have to make adjustments to. But we think we know what they want to do to us, it’s just a matter of executing the defense.”
Despite GP having some insight into how Bellevue runs its offense, Hannan doesn’t expect the Wolverines to deviate from what they do best.
“I think they are a very confident group,” he said. “I don’t think that we’re going to scare them. They’ll probably just come like ‘This is what we do and come and stop us.’”
The Grizzlies can expect large doses of running back Budda Baker, one of the top recruits on the West Coast.
“We are going against the best in the state and one of the top in country,” GP wide receiver and defensive back Kaianoa Wong said. “We’ve just got to shut them down and do our job. Everybody has a specific job on defense. We all know what to do. We’ve just got to do it and execute — and if we execute, things will go our way.”
Glacier Peak saw a version of the wing-T in a 59-20 loss to third-ranked Marysville Pilchuck in the Wesco 3A championship game, but Hannan said the MP and Bellevue offenses are very different.
“Marysville is really a fly-T team,” Hannan said. “(The Tomahawks) run everything off the fly sweep and the quarterback will keep it and run.
“The plays (the Wolverines) run aren’t the same at all.”
Of course, it’s one thing to know what Bellevue is going to; it’s quite another to match the Wolverines’ athletic ability.
“There is wing-T and then there’s Bellevue wing-T,” Rosenbach said. “There is everybody else’s speed and then there’s Bellevue’s speed.”
The ultimate key to success, Rosenbach and Hannan said, will be how well the Grizzlies tackle.
“We feel like we’ve got reads that will lock are kids in to where the ball is going to be,” Hannan said. “Don’t trust what you see, trust your read keys and then it’s a matter of getting to the ball. And really with Bellevue, it’s a matter of tackling the guy with the ball. Bellevue makes plays by breaking tackles and running a long way, so when we’re in position to make a play, the kids have got to make the play.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.
Glacier Peak vs. Bellevue
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Bellevue H.S.
How they got here: Bellevue (10-0) beat Ferndale 44-0; Glacier Peak (8-2) beat Wilson 28-3.
Winner receives: Spot in the quarterfinals against Bonney Lake/Peninsula winner.
Scoreczar pick: If a team finds itself on the same side of the state bracket as Bellevue it can be demoralizing. It means your already difficult road to the championship game just got a lot harder. Bellevue will do what they do so well until somebody in this state stops them. Bellevue, 38-3.
Swaney pick: Bellevue, 31-10
Krueger pick: Bellevue, 45-20
Lommers pick: Bellevue, 35-17