Middle ground? Central Valley football controls line of scrimmage to upend Bellevue: 5 takeaways

Ryan Butner would rather live in relative anonymity.

That certainly will change after his Central Valley High School football team handed Class 3A powerhouse Bellevue one of its worst home losses in years.

Bears quarterback Matt Gabbert threw four touchdown passes, and the defense never let the Wolverines’ vaunted Wing-T offense get untracked in Central Valley’s 27-10 non-conference victory Saturday afternoon at Bellevue District Stadium.

It was Bellevue’s worst loss at home since the season opener in 2015 (lost 35-7 to Bishop Gorman).

Here are five takeaways from the game:

There is another big, athletic FBS-level quarterback in Washington, and he lives in Spokane

If this was a west-side showcase game for Gabbert (6-foot-5, 220 pounds), the first cousin of NFL quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the senior certainly showed off an array of skills in Bellevue.

He has more than enough arm strength, and put that on display time and time again delivering the football to wide receivers Cameron Sheley and Carsen Raab for touchdowns.

What was surprising was his touch, especially on rollout passes. Gabbert said that was something the Central Valley offense incorporated a little bit last season – and emphasized in the offseason.

Gabbert did not throw a ton of passes (9-for-16, 175 yards, four TDs, one interception) in the game, but he didn’t have to, either.

“We wanted to establish the line of scrimmage and wear them down – and then take advantage of when he threw it – with a fastball,” Butner said.

Bellevue’s Wing-T offense usually is a nightmare for coaching staffs to stop – but not Butner

The only time Central Valley faced the Wing-T offense was in last year’s season-opening meeting against the Wolverines in Spokane – won 18-7 by Bellevue.

So what did the Bears do in preparing for it this time around?

Nothing extra, Butner said.

“How much time and effort do you put into scheming against a defense you are never going to see again?” Butner said. “We wanted to get off to a good note (in 2019) … but we just took our base defensive schemes and applied it to our game plan.”

Butner did admit he changed one thing in preparing for Bellevue: He was the scout-team quarterback at times.

“My hip flexor is a little tight,” he said.

The interior of Central Valley’s defense should be a real strength all season

Over the years, Bellevue’s rushing offense has been known to chew up opposing defenses, then spit them out.

That never happened Saturday as the Wolverines averaged a paltry 3.5 yards per rushing attempt – totaling 147 yards on 42 carries.

And the middle of the Bears’ front – senior defensive tackles Tate Cornell and Eli Bailey, and sophomore inside linebackers Trevor Gravelle and Brandon Thomas (making their first varsity starts) – never let top Bellevue inside rusher Joby Schneider get untracked.

“They were studs for us,” Butner said.

Bellevue’s offensive inefficiency was also caused by self-inflicted mistakes

The other shocking aspect of watching the Wolverines’ largely struggle to run the football was seeing them commit eight offensive penalties – six coming in the second half.

After Central Valley extended its lead to 20-10 late in the third quarter, the Wolverines needed to answer. Instead, they began their next series with back-to-back penalties – a delay of game, and an illegal shift – to go three-and-out.

On their next drive, they committed four penalties, including three in a row. They did not have a first down in the final 16 minutes of the game.

“We can’t be first and 15, second and 15. We’ve got to get better and clean those things up,” Bellevue coach Michael Kneip said. “We’re so young, so raw … so when you roll out a lot of young guys it’s just tough. So you learn.”

Central Valley has a speedster and a closer to feature on offense

The game’s biggest play was Gabbert’s 77-yard touchdown pass to Sheley with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Wide open, Sheley caught the pass in the middle of the field, darted left and took off untouched the rest of the way. The playmaking receiver caught two scoring passes in the game.

And in the fourth quarter, the offense relied heavily on running back Ryan Harper (19 carries, 70 yards), who gained the hard inside yards to keep drives alive.

Last season, Harper started out at tailback, but moved to slot receiver.

“He is back where he belongs,” Butner said.

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