Friday, September 10, 1999

Bellevue restoring a winning tradition




BY RAY SCHAEFER
Enquirer contributor

        Bellevue junior quarterback Nate Berkley has read newspaper accounts of past Tiger teams that won state football titles, but he's upset his teammates have been better known for losing.

        Berkley and his teammates are starting to reverse that trend. Bellevue's 3-0 start is the school's first since 1991 and a win at Mason County tonight would mean the Tigers would be 4-0 for the first time since the 1990 team reached the state Class A finals.

        “Needless to say, we're tickled to death,” coach Charlie Coleman said.

        A win also would be the latest step toward erasing the memory of a 2-8 record in 1997 and a 5-7 mark last year.

        “We heard of Bellevue's winning tradition,” Berkley said. “We wanted to restore it.”

        If nothing else, Bellevue has established its offense as one of Northern Kentucky's most potent. After edging Whitley County 14-7 three weeks ago, the Tigers pounded rival Dayton 58-0 and Dayton (Ohio) Jefferson 63-6.

        “We didn't expect to have the margin of victory over Dayton,” Coleman said. “We rely on our running game, but we feel we can throw if we have to.”

        Coleman couldn't say that in 1997. The 22 juniors and seniors on this year's team suffered through a 2-8 season, the worst in Coleman's 15-plus years as head coach.

        “They were freshmen and sophomores,” Coleman said. “They were so young, they were happy to be playing so much varsity at that age.”

        To junior tailback James Delaney and senior defensive tackle Eric Heck, Saturday morning film sessions were as enjoyable as root canals.

        “You'd see what you did wrong; you kept doing it again and again,” Delaney said.

        Said Heck: “There was nobody to blame. The coaches coached, but the kids didn't listen.”

        Bellevue's turnaround began with last year's Class A playoffs. A 27-26 overtime victory at Raceland in the first round showed the Tigers they could win in the postseason, and a 31-6 loss to Dayton the next week showed them what was missing — more time in the weight room.

        “We started (lifting) the Monday after the season ended last year,” Coleman said. “It was more player-initiated.”

        Delaney (who ran for 1,003 yards in '98), Heck and senior linebacker Joe Grainger get a lot of credit for what Bellevue has done so far this year. Delaney has 256 yards rushing, two touchdowns and 8.8 yards per carry; Heck has 21 tackles and three sacks; and Grainger has 20 tackles.

        “I was a lot slower last year,” Delaney said. “I worked a lot harder in the summer.”

        Coleman said that a lineman leads the team in tackles means his defense is controlling the line of scrimmage.

        “Eric's our strongest,” Coleman said. “He benches 330.”

        For Bellevue to win its third Class A state championship (the Tigers also won in 1977 and '79), it will have to surpass seven-time state champion Beechwood. They meet Oct.8 at Bellevue's Gilligan Stadium.

        Before this year, Coleman wasn't sure his teams could be mentioned on the same page as Beechwood, but he and his players now think a win is possible.

        “I hope the gap has gotten narrower,” Coleman said. “I think we can be mentioned in the same paragraph.”

High School Football Page



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