Friday, November 19, 1999

Bellevue's success begins with defense

Enquirer contributor

        Bellevue senior defensive back Thomas Fogelman had just finished saying defense wins games when senior linebacker Joey Grainger corrected him.

        “Defense wins championships,” Grainger said.

        The Tigers are three games away from a Class A state title, and they have a huge hurdle tonight in seven-time champion Beechwood in tonight's regional title game. But on the way to a 12-0 record and state No. 1 ranking, Bellevue has allowed just 74 points (6.1 per game) — best in the state — and an average of 173.5 yards per contest.

        Topping that are five shutouts, including a 17-0 blanking of Beechwood on Oct. 8.

        “I don't know if that was expected,” Fogelman said of the shutouts. “But we knew we'd have a good defense. We worked just as much (on defense) as offense.”

        Defensive coordinator Dave Meadows saw 1999 coming when the seniors and juniors were sophomores and freshmen.

        “I coached the defense for the (junior varsity) for the past two years,” Meadows said. “Over the last two years, the JV was 12-2. We had so much speed and some size in the interior. In the offseason, all these guys worked their butts off in the weight room.”

        It's a strange thing to say about a small Class A school, but Bellevue's strength may be its numbers.

        Five Tigers, seniors Eric Heck and Matt Pickeral, juniors Jake Ross and Jerry Gramer and freshman Cie Cie Wood rotate at tackles and nose guard. Senior Sonny Rechtin and juniors Chad Montgomery and Kevin Bowling share time at defensive end.

        Joey Grainger; his brother, sophomore Jay Grainger; and senior Russell Madden are the linebackers. Fogelman, senior Greg Duell and junior Tony Hurtt are the defensive backs.

        “I think they're aggressive kids,” coach Charlie Coleman said. “They're able to get off the blocks and get to the ball carrier.”

        Individually, Joey Grainger leads the team with 104 tackles, followed by Fogelman with 77 and Jay Grainger with 72. Montgomery has five sacks and Fogelman has six interceptions.

        Coleman thinks Joey Grainger correcting Fogelman is typical of Grainger's approach to football.

        “Joe is definitely a forward person on and off the field,” Coleman said. “Thomas is more the quiet leader.”

        In addition to Beechwood, Bellevue shut out Dayton twice, Mason County and Rowan County.

        Fogleman said blanking Mason County was the most significant achievement because the Royals often sent four receivers into patterns, while Heck said ending Beechwood's six-year district winning string and beating that rival for the first time since the 1990 playoffs was the biggest victory.

        The Beechwood win was startling: Bellevue allowed just 166 total yards, only 65 in the second half.

        Meadows, meanwhile, said there was room to improve. He talks about the blown pass coverage that didn't hurt Bellevue because a Beechwood receiver dropped the pass and the linemen who went the wrong way on stunts.

        “We bend but don't break,” Meadows said. “We (held) them out of the end zone.”

        After beating Beechwood in October, several Bellevue players whispered, “We'll beat 'em again.” Meadows said doing it tonight will take Bellevue's best game of the year.

        “We're capable of the perfect game,” Meadows said. “It hasn't happened yet, but it's close.”


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