Liberty stopped by Bellevue’s stingy defense

Bellevue’s Leonard Wolfork got something rare in football: a second chance. And this time, he made sure no one caught him.

  • Friday, October 31, 2008 1:00am
  • Sports
Liberty’s Joseph Yea runs with a ball as Bellevue’s Leonard Wolfork tries to catch him from behind.

Liberty’s Joseph Yea runs with a ball as Bellevue’s Leonard Wolfork tries to catch him from behind.

Bellevue’s Leonard Wolfork got something rare in football: a second chance. And this time, he made sure no one caught him.

The senior lineman recovered his second fumble of the night in the third quarter and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown that sealed Liberty’s first KingCo loss this season. The 24-7 win over the Patriots (6-2, 4-1) also clinched a KingCo 3A title for the Wolverines (8-0, 5-0).

Wolfork recovered his first fumble in the first quarter and returned it 30 yards to the Liberty six-yard line before he was caught from behind. The second time, no one came close.

“I was looking over my shoulders with each step,” Wolfork said. “I just wanted to make sure no one caught me this time.”

Wolfork was playing in just his third game of the season because of injuries to his hip flexor and groin earlier in the season; but he was right in the middle of two plays that helped decide an otherwise closely fought game.

The Patriots held the Wolverines’ rushing attack in check early in the game until Wolfork’s recovery and run gave Bellevue a short field to work with. Running back Eric Nelson charged into the end zone from two yards out just two plays later, giving Bellevue a 7-0 lead after Houston Hubert’s extra point kick.

Nelson rushed 19 times overall, 17 in the first half, for 90 yards. Liberty held Bellevue’s wing-T offense to 195 rushing yards, well under its season average.

Liberty couldn’t move the ball consistently against Bellevue’s defense, as quarterback Trey Wheeler struggled in the first half. He missed on all seven of his pass attempts, lost one fumble and threw an interception to Bellevue senior Jamal Atofau.

But Liberty coach Steve Valach never lost faith in his quarterback.

“I went into the locker room at halftime and said, ‘No. 7, you’re my guy. We’re going to keep playing our game and keep throwing,’” Valach said.

Wheeler came out on the Patriots’ first drive in the second half and looked like a new player. He connected on four passes and led his team on a 58-yard drive. But the drive stalled and Atofau blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt, leaving the Patriots empty handed.

It was the Wolverines’ air attack that stung Liberty in the third quarter. After pounding Liberty by running the ball, quarterback Tommy Castle connected with wide receiver Brayden Van Ackeren for a 69-yard touchdown on a post route.

Liberty scored a fourth-quarter touchdown when Wheeler hit John Kirksey for 27 yards. The sophomore passed for 172 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Senior Joseph Yea led Liberty in rushing, with nine attempts for 56 yards. Richard Crespo caught seven passes for 119 yards.

“They’ve been there, and we’re getting there,” Valach said of Bellevue’s experience. “I don’t think we lacked any belief, it just didn’t work out.

Liberty’s final regular-season game is against Mount Si (5-3, 4-1) on Oct. 31 and will decide second place in the KingCo. By virtue of Mount Si’s victory over Juanita on Oct. 24, Liberty and Mount Si have both clinched spots in the playoffs. Second place in the league will be at stake when the two meet.

Asked about the game against Mount Si, Valach said “It’s always a war with those guys.” The Wildcats’ three losses have come to Eastlake, Bellevue and Issaquah, teams with a combined 22-4 record.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Sports

Photo courtesy of Panthers Youth Rugby
Panthers Youth Rugby rolls into action

Panthers Youth Rugby is encouraging boys and girls in middle school and… Continue reading

Photo of Eastlake Little League’s All Star Team. From L to R: (Back row) Jackson Wheeler, Kellen Kinney, Sanath Chari, James Ort III, Sule Tian, Eli Jones, Pryce Eadon. (Front row) JJ Hamiltion, Sawyer Todd, Ryder Oswalt, Walter Steinbok, Logan Rausch, Harrison Militello. Photo Courtesy of Jeff Steinbok.
Eastlake’s time at Little League World Series comes to an end

The boys of Eastlake Little League’s 12U all-star team’s time at the… Continue reading

A Decatur High School student in Federal Way participates in a conditioning workout in Feb. 2021 as the state eased back in to in-person activities. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
State announces mask requirements for student sports, performing arts

Athletes are not required to wear masks when participating in sports of any contact level while outside.

Teaser
Eastlake all-stars score spot in Little League World Series

Eastlake Little League’s 12U all star team was crowned Northwest Regional Champions… Continue reading

Screenshot of video obtained by Redmond police shows Richard Sherman trying to break into the Redmond home of his in-laws.
Former Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman charged with five misdemeanors in King County

Charges were filed following an incident at home of Sherman’s in-laws in Redmond.

Screenshot
Redmond Police arrest former Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman

Redmond Police allege former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman crashed into a… Continue reading

Snoqualmie Casino unveiled the first immersive Seahawks-branded table game experience Sept. 18, 2020, in a ribbon cutting dedication with Snoqualmie Tribe Council members and Snoqualmie Casino executives. Courtesy photo
Gambling Commission OKs pacts with tribes for sports betting

Agreements with 15 tribes await approval by the governor and the feds.

t
Issaquah notches girls soccer victory

Issaquah’s girls soccer team celebrates a goal during its 4-0 victory over… Continue reading

t
Registration open for Panthers Youth Rugby

By Sophie Demandolx Special to the Reporter If you are a teenager… Continue reading

Kentwood High football. FILE PHOTO
WIAA Executive Board revises Season 1 sports in response to state guidelines

Practices scheduled to begin Feb. 1 for football, volleyball, soccer and 5 other sports

The Mercer Island boys basketball celebrates their 61-36 victory over Interlake in the 3A KingCo championship game on Feb. 11, 2020, at Sammamish High School. File photo
WIAA pushes back return to play for prep sports

Season 2 now begins Feb. 1 and seasons have been shortened to seven weeks each.

In this file photo from March 2020, the Federal Way High School boys basketball team reacts in the final minutes of the state quarterfinals game against Mt. Si High School. File photo
New guidelines released for return of prep sports in WA

The new plan places counties and sports in three-tier systems. No signs of a quicker return to play.