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Bellevue takes on Texas power Thursday

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- When Butch Goncharoff agreed to travel to play Katy (Texas) in 2009, the coach at Bellevue (Wash.) didn’t believe in “Friday Night Lights.”

He didn’t watch the movie. He didn’t see the TV show. The longtime coach thought high school football in Texas was more myth than reality.

“I thought it was a joke,” he said.

It didn’t take long for him to change his mind.

“It is real down there,” he said. “It is fanatical.”

The Wolverines practiced at Katy (Texas) Cinco Ranch and there was football being played on every corner -- powder puff, little league and middle school. Football was everything, all the time.

Then there was the game. On a humid September night, Bellevue kept the score close. But there was a point when "you could just see we had insulted somebody,” said Goncharoff, whose team lost 35-17.

That loss was the first of two defeats against out-of-state opponents that season -- the other came against Sacramento (Calif.) Grant, which featured current Washington safeties James Sample and Shaq Thompson. Those remain the only two out-of-state losses Bellevue has endured under Goncharoff, who was hired in 2000.

The Wolverines, ranked No. 7 in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings, are 5-2 against prominent, out-of-state competition, heading into Thursday’s 6 p.m. game against Euless (Texas) Trinity at Seattle Memorial Stadium. They snapped Concord (Calif.) De La Salle’s 151-game winning streak in 2004 and knocked off Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian last season.

Bellevue has never been a team that backs away from big games and, considering Texas teams don’t often travel, Goncharoff said this is the second-biggest matchup his program has played in behind the win over De La Salle.

“It means a lot, especially from a Texas team that we’ve heard has never traveled anywhere,” junior defensive back Bishard “Budda” Baker said. “This is the first time they’re getting to travel and I just feel like this is going to be a really fun game.

“State titles are great and all, but beating a team from out of state means a lot.”

Trinity heads to Seattle with a formidable line on both sides of the ball. Defensive end Gaius Vaenuku -- he has a Washington offer -- is 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, while Sam Tevi, the other defensive end -- a Utah commit -- is 6-5, 265.

Whether it’s Salesi Uhatafe, 6-5, 300, or Arizona State tight end commit Jason Reese (6-5, 222), Trinity is tall and talented with no shortage of size.

The Wolverines don’t have the same size, but Bellevue boasts big-game experience and Division-I talent, including Baker and linebackers Sean Constantine -- a Washington commit -- and Myles Jack -- a UCLA commit.

Baker said he started marking a calendar 180 days before the game. On Wednesday, he had one more to cross off. Bellevue has prepared all summer, but the true test comes when the lights are turned on and the teams take the field.

“You don’t know what you get in any game going under the lights,” Goncharoff said. “We’re hopeful experienced guys will come through and we’ll do the things we need to do, but I don’t know. Sometimes we look really good and, sometimes, we look awful, but that’s high school.

“You can be as prepped as you want, but when you’re trying to block 6-6, 6-7, 350 pounds, there’s only so many things you can do. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I don’t know. I’m as curious as everybody to find out.”