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There is a saying in sports that some teams don’t “rebuild, they reload”. That couldn’t be more true about the Bellevue Wolverines and head coach Butch Goncharoff. With D1 talent across the field, finding time for younger players could be a bit of a struggle. That isn’t the case for the Wolverines. Not only do they dismantle opponents allowing the younger players to get playing time in the second half, but they have the confidence to play some of these players in key situations throughout a game.
Taking a look at our 2014 rankings you will see multiple Wolverine players ranked and none lower than third at his position. Budda Baker is the top tanked RB and DB, Morgan Richey is our #2 OL, while Marcus Griffin and Shane Bowman are #2 and #3 ranked DL.
Losing a lot of quality players after this season would severely hamper most programs. Not the Wolverines though. As of today, their JV and Freshman teams are a combined 13-0 with their closest win being a 34-9 JV win over Skyline. I know a lot of people might want to say ‘this is only JV and Freshman teams’, but frankly it is a culture of winning that is developed at a young age that I like the most.
The Wolverines are known for running the football almost exclusively out of the Wing-T formation. I have watched a lot of football in my day and seen a lot of Wing-T formations, but nobody runs it to perfection the way Bellevue does. Sure Bellevue has a ton of talent and do most years, but in my opinion it is minor details that puts the Wolverines above the rest.
One thing the Wolverines have that is almost unmatched in this state is the play of their offensive line. Over the years they have had some great lineman go on to big time colleges, Dan Dicks (1999 Gatorade Player Of The year, UW), Stephen Schilling (Michigan) and David DeCastro (Stanford), the last two going on to play in the NFL. Much of the credit here goes to assistant head coach Pat Jones who also works with the lineman.
One player that looks to be in the mold of the next great lineman for the Wolverines is Sophomore Henry Roberts (6-5 240). He is already one of the biggest kids on the team and still has two years to grow. Roberts is a big kid that moves really well and and definitely has strong D1 potential for the future.
Bellevue doesn’t always have the biggest lineman, but what they do have is a group that knows where they are supposed to be on every play and rarely makes a mistake. Two Sophomores that absolutely epitomize what Bellevue line play is all about are Campbell Alexieff (5-11 210) and Alec Palander (5-8 180).
Following in the mold of guys like Darien Freeman and Marcus Griffin is big man Nyonza Musinguzi (So, 5-10 230). He moves well for his size and should see time next year alongside Griffin.
The Wolverines have some really nice lineman in their Freshman class as well. Michael Henn (6-3 215) is already one of the bigger lineman in the Bellevue program and has the makings of being a great player. Ryan Bowman (5-11 175) is still growing and with the quality coaching that Bellevue offers, should have no problem being at the least all conference.
The general idea is that Isaiah Gilchrist could be the next Budda Baker type player. That is very high praise for a Freshman, but everyone I spoke with is very confident that he will see a lot of time next year as a Sophomore. Gilchrist is one of two freshman that are on the roster that Bellevue puts our each week.
Sam Richmond is already getting lots of work with varsity and through 8 weeks was 11th in KingCo rushing and had 3 TDs. Richmond is averaging over 12 yards per rush and looks to be just like John Nguyen is now. He will be the key runner up the middle that defenses can’t stop and in turn opens up the misdirection stuff that Bellevue is famous for. Richmond also finished 8th in the 110 Meter Hurdles last year with a time of 15.71.
Mustafa Branch is a player I guarantee you will hear more of over the next two years. For lack of a better term, I will say he is NASTY. Branch definitely passes the eye test and packs a punch on both sides of the ball. When I think of Branch as a senior, I see him being the next Myles Jack.
Joining Branch at LB will be Freshman Francis Haroon (6-1 190) who already has the body to play at the varsity level. He has good range and a killer instinct that a player needs to play D1 football. Next Sean Constantine?… I think so.
Bellevue has always been know for being very athletic in the secondary and that wont change anytime soon. Ross Connors (So, 5-9 160), Jack Michael (So, 5-9 150), Ryan Gilbert (So, 5-10 155) and Isaac Garcia (Fr, 6-3 175) are all names you will want to remember. Connors is a Safety with all the potential in the world. Ryan Gilbert is a name that kept coming up. He plays on special teams now and leads the team in special teams tackles. Was even told he could be the Special Teams Player Of The Year.
The most important position for Bellevue might be the QB. Sure they don’t run or pass all that much, but fact of the matter is they are the masters of deception. They have had some really good names in the last 10+ years and have one of their best ever right now in senior Jack Meggs. Coming through the system is Freshman stud Justus Rogers (6-1 180). He might have the most all-around athleticism of the names mentioned here. He should see plenty of time next year as the backup to Timmy Haehl, but then the keys to the Bellevue offense will be his.
This years team and future teams are strikingly similar and that should be no surprise. With great coaching and unbelievable community support the Wolverines will be a dominant force for a long time.
One thing I notice as I go over the material I have helping me with this article are the amount of coaches on the Bellevue staff that are former players. These are not just any former players either. They are names I remember watching and names that were impact players.
I look forward to watching these players develop over the next few years as they continue the winning tradition that has been built. Guaranteed this will not be the last time I write about these great athletes.