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Know Thy Opponent: Bethel Braves
Bethel's Anthony Meray has indeed been heroic in his onfield exploits this season, rushing for 22 touchdowns and over 200 yards per game, while leading his team in receptions and turning in another all-league caliber season on defense. Photo by photosbyjonas/Flickr
While the coaches began studying film on the SPSL South Bethel Braves as early as two weeks ago, Viking players started reviewing their Saturday opponent in earnest yesterday after practice, beginning with a detailed game plan drawn up by the Viking staff.
Let's take a look at the team particulars before we get to the individual players.
District PlayoffsWho: Bethel Braves (8-2, 7-1)What: District playoffs, state play-in gameWhy: The Braves finished second in the SPSL South, and are slotted to play the Wesco North #2.Where: Art Crate Field, Bethel High School, SpanawayWhen: Saturday, 7 pm.
Season Summary:The Braves finished the season second in the SPSL South and ranked eighth in the Tacoma News Tribune 4A top ten. The Braves are ranked tenth in the Seattle Times 4A top ten. Bethel's only loss came in week two at division foe Curtis. Curtis finished an undefeated season first in the SPSL South and ranked fifth in all major 4A top ten polls.
In week one play, Bethel defeated Rogers 21-20. Rogers crushed the Vikings in last year's district playoffs. Bethel and Lake Stevens had no common opponents, although Lake played Graham-Kapowsin in summer ball, losing 21-7. Bethel got past G-K 24-15 week six.
Braves on Offense:Bethel runs a no-huddle spread offense, but a different version than the system operated by Tom Tri and the Vikes. The Braves use formation to spread the field in order to open lanes for the running game. Bethel is a run heavy team, and rushed for 24 touchdowns on the season - 22 from senior RB Anthony Meray, more on him in a bit.
The Braves are fairly predictable and almost always run to the strong side and/or to the side of motion. Bethel favors motioning a receiver into the back field to serve as a lead blocker. The braves use a zone blocking system and do not favor traps or misdirection.
Braves on Defense:Bethel lines up in a 3-4 and likes to put a lot of pressure on opposing QB's by bringing constant linebacker pressure. The Bethel defense is anchored at the point of attack by all state defensive lineman Happy Iona, an Oregon State commit. More on him in a bit. Bethel also has two all-league caliber middle linebackers patrolling the middle of the field, freeing up the outside backers to walk up and blitz often. The Braves hardly ever send less than five rushers at the quarterback, and sometimes as many as seven, leaving defensive backs on an island against offensive skill players.
On the season, Bethel held opponents to a 34% completion percentage and enjoyed a 16-9 turnover ratio advantage. However, opponents were able to move the ball against Bethel, compiling 104 first downs to Bethel's 84.
#21 RB/CB Anthony Meray 5'9, 185 SrMeray holds a scholarship offer from Air Force and is looking at several other schools, including Oregon and Washington. Meray sports a 4.47 4o yard dash time and a 31 inch vertical. On the season, Meray has averaged over 200 yards per game and has 22 touchdowns. Also worth noting that Meray is an exceptional receiver out of the backfield, and leads the Braves with 18 receptions. Meray will likely rank alongside Riley Carr and Austin Denton as the best backs the Vikings have faced this season. However, Meray is far and away the top threat on offense and Bethel is predictable in efforts to constantly get him the ball. Meray was a first team All SPSL selection at running back and second team at defensive back last season as a junior.
#85 WR/H-Back Patrick Loughlin 6'1, 180 SrAlthough Loughlin has just 11 catches for 142 yards, he may be the second most important player on the Bethel offense. Loughlin usually begins the play split out wide, but is almost always put into motion - especially on runs. Loughlin motions into the backfield and serves as a very effective lead blocker for Meray. However, Loughlin's ability is partially offset by the fact that he always motions into the area the Braves are trying to run, providing the defense with a valuable tell.
#2 WR Tommy McDonald 5'11, 180 SrMcDonald is Bethel's big play threat through the air. The speedy senior is averaging an unheard of 35 yards per catch and has six touchdowns through the air. The senior averages about two catches and 75 yards per game. He constantly runs Go and Post patterns, and Bethel will look for him deep several times per game to keep the defensive secondary from stacking the box against the run too much.
#11 QB Justin Hordyk 6'0, 165 SophLike the Vikings, the Braves have settled on a talented sophomore quarterback heading into the playoffs. On the season, Hordyk completed 53 percent of his passes with an impressive 10/3 touchdown to interception ratio. Not much of a threat to run, Hordyk throws and accurate deep ball and will either handoff, throw a screen to Meray, or throw the post to McDonald.
#1 DT Happy Iona 6'3, 285 SrIona is one of the top prep players in the state of Washington. The 6'3 285 pound defensive tackle has verbally committed to Oregon State, and held offers from Washington and Washington State. Iona badly sprained his ankle early in the season and missed three games, returning week six. The Vikings can expect Iona to be fully rested, as Bethel clinched second in the SPSL two weeks ago and did not need to use him much last week. Viking center Jake Bennett and guards Kody Dinh and Jordan Eckstrom will have an opportunity to show the college scouts watching Iona what they are capable of come Saturday. Containing Iona's penetration will be key, as the constant pressure from the Bethel linebackers can overwhelm a defense that is forced to double or triple Iona.
#4 LB/FB Andrew Feazelle 5'9, 216 SrThis senior bowling ball of a linebacker is literally all over the field on film, as he leads the Braves in tackles and is second in sacks. On offense, he serves as a devastating lead blocker and short yardage back. On defense, he quarterbacks the Bethel D and patrols the middle of the field or shoots gaps and pressures the opposing backfield.
#51 LB Dominic Holder 5'11, 215 SrHolder, a second team All SPSL selection at linebacker as a junior, is once again enjoying an all league caliber season. Holder is adept in coverage and a threat on the blitz.
#10 Brandon Bailey 5'10, 186, SrAn All SPSL selection last year, the senior kicker is accurate and a threat to convert from 40 plus yards. The Braves will hold a huge advantage in the kicking game over the Vikings, as Lake Stevens has lost its top two kickers to injury and is reportedly holding open tryouts this week after the third string kicker was less than impressive last week.
That's all for now. We'll have a more detailed report from the TNT's Doug Pacey later in the week.