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November 16, 2011

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

He knows. He totally knows.

Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes head coach Dave Miller, trying to stay even keel, doesn't dispute the importance of the Friday night showdown with Bellevue (Wash.) High.

"It is huge," he said. "We have been in the state equation for about 25 years; Bellevue has been big time nationally the last 10 years or so.

"This year we both have very high expectations so the game is getting a little more attention than normal."

A little more?

Video of Lakes vs. Enumclaw.
Lakes is ranked No. 19 in the RivalsHigh 100. Bellevue is No. 18. Because of it, the game is one of the biggest in state history despite being only a quarterfinal-round game in the Class 3A tournament.

It is also the RivalsHigh National Game of the Week.

Miller isn't thinking about that type of stuff. He said he's got his team focused on just one thing: A state title.

"We are a team that has fourteen goals," Miller said. "We have achieved eleven of them right now.

"A lot of people are trying to say that this game is a de facto state finals game. That is pretty far from the truth if you ask me. Whichever team wins will likely be playing either Camas [(Wash.) High] or [Seattle (Wash.)] O'Dea for a state title - and neither of those two are games you can count as a win until they are over."

If he gets those three wins and completes his checklist, it will be one of the most successful seasons for Lakes in nearly 15 years.

"We won it in 1997 and were runners-up in 2000," Miller said. "And gosh we have been third a thousand other times. I don't think programs, players, and coaches can be judged on one game because whoever wins this has two more to win."

But whoever wins this would appear to have its toughest test out of the way.

"We know them well," Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff told the Seattle Times. "It's going to be fun."

Bellevue beat Lakes 35-7, in a semifinal last year.

This year, however, it appears to be a different Lakes team.

The roster is loaded with senior talent. Offensive tackle Zach Banner is a Rivals100 player. Playmaker Cedric Dozier is in the Rivals250. Ma'ne Manaea is back to full strength and Zaheer Webb has been disruptive on the defensive line.

[WATCH FOR FREE: Check out the game on WashingtonPreps.com]

This is not the same team that Bellevue beat last year.

Even with a more experienced and confident group, Miller maintains his team is the heavy underdog until it can prove otherwise.

"We have to actually win some of these game before we can start thinking we aren't the hunter," he said. "We have to play a great game. Assignment defense. Make tackles. Eliminate turnovers will all be key.

"What will be most important is to play all four quarters."

The complete football game is something Lakes did not do in last year's loss.

It can be argued that for three quarters the play was relatively even and that the final score was a little deceptive. What cannot be argued is what turned the game.

"We have three turnovers in one quarter," Miller said with a sigh. "It was the difference and they are such a great, fundamentally sound team, that if you give them extra chances they will make you pay."

This year, the game plan has not changed much for either team.

Bellevue will play its typical defense. It will make tackles and keep the ball in front of it.

Video of Bellevue vs. Glacier Peak.
It will run its Wing-T offense.

An offense that Goncharoff told RivalsHigh earlier this year grows as a bigger weapon the more teams shift to a more aerial attack.

"Everyone wants to run the spread now," he said then. "So the older this offense gets, the better it is for us."

Goncharoff added that the system keeps his players interested even if they don't see it being played on Saturday or Sunday. "

It is actually fun for them," he said. "Our linemen love it. They get to earhole defenders so much and get to run and be active. Plus we win."

It is the latter that Miller hopes to change.

"We will have to ignore the window dressing that comes with that style of play," he said. "We have to play defense and we have to be balanced on offense.

"Both of these teams are talented; both worked hard to get here. Only one of us gets to keep it going."

Both coaches know that.

National GOTW
No. 18 Bellevue vs. No. 19 Lakes

OL Zach Banner (6-9/318, Sr.)
DL Zaheer Webb (6-3/320, Sr.)
ATH Cedric Dozier (5-11/178, Sr.)
DB Ma'ne Manaea (5-11/187, Sr.)
OL Jake Eldrenkamp (6-5/285, Sr.)
OL Michael Kneip (6-5/279, Sr.)
ATH Tyler Hasty (6-0/176, Sr.)

When: Friday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: October 26, 2010 - Bellevue won, 35-7
Rankings: Bellevue (11-0), No. 1 in Washington
Lakes (11-0), No. 2 in Washington

Bellevue wins if: If its defense can contain the Lakes playmakers on offense. Lakes will be trying to establish the run game to keep balanced and keep Bellevue honest. The Wolverines will need to shut that down quickly so they can focus on forcing Lakes to the air and getting turnovers. Bellevue has wins this year over Oaks Christian and Skyline but it has lost the eyeball test in both those games. Again, it will be a heavy underdog walking out of the locker room for casual fans. Its defensive play will have to set the tone early and get its offense a chance to move the ball.

Lakes wins if: It doesn't try to win the game on one play. It will take a full 48-minute effort to win this game. If the team gets sucked into the emotions of the game, it could spell disaster. Lakes has not faced much adversity this year and it certainly will on Friday night. When it gets pushed against the wall, the reaction will decide the game. Staying level - like Bellevue certainly will - will go a long way toward a win. If the team panics and tries to score a 14-point touchdown, it will only get worse - and a result similar to last year may be in the works.

Prediction: It is not quite an "if not now, then when" situation for Lakes, but this is the school's most talented and complete team in some time. Bellevue is working its usual magic of playing without a laundry list of studs but rather has so many quality, fundamentally sound, football players. Lakes has the top-end talent going away, but its role players will need to come ready to have an impact as all 11 players on both sides of Bellevue will be ready to step up when called on. Bellevue has been more battle tested, but there is something about Lakes that just feels different this year. - Lakes 24, Bellevue 18.

Game of the Week Predictions: 9-4 (10-5 in '10, '09, and '08)

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