2023 HS Football Preview: Tougher SWBL to challenge Bellbrook’s run at the top


BELLBROOK — The Golden Eagles have a firm grasp on what makes them a successful team year after year.

Three straight SWBL titles and consecutive playoff runs have created an identity which Bellbrook players are buying into: Having a winning attitude.

“We expect to win games, we expect to compete for championships and get to the playoffs and win playoff games,” head coach Jeff Jenkins said. “That really determines the majority, in my opinion, of how well a season is going to go.”

Bellbrook has winning another SWBL title on its mind as the team is set to get 2023 started. The path will be one of the more difficult in recent years.

Continuing recent home-and-home series against Tippecanoe and Miamisburg to start the season, a trip to Valley View in week three means the Golden Eagles will face two state semifinalists from the 2022 season in its first three contests. The SWBL also added two schools to the league with strong recent history in Edgewood and Ross, which both will be in the same division as Bellbrook.

“The schedule we have is absolutely loaded,” Jenkins said. “We’re really just putting the most we can into each individual day and for now only focusing on Tipp and not looking ahead by any means because they will be one of the best teams we face all year.”

Bellbrook has cemented itself as one of the best in the area as well, having earned a first round home playoff game in three consecutive seasons and advancing to the Division III regional final in 2021.

It comes as no surprise four of the squad’s six captains this season are linemen with the way they have achieved that success. Bellbrook wants to win the battle up front and does so with regularity.

“We’re always going to hang our hat on playing tough, physical and fast,” Jenkins said. “If that doesn’t tell you who we look on to lead our team, I’m not sure what will.”

A strong defensive group led by seniors Jake Lopez and Jacob Umina which continued to gain experience from competing in the postseason will cause opponents to be on their game every week. Three-year starter at quarterback Luke Benetis will be the guy to lead the offense and should help open up the ground attack from Makai Smith and company.

“[Luke] has gotten stronger and his arm strength is much better,” Jenkins said. “He’s a super competitive young man who is team first all the way.”

Bellbrook had to overcome losing several all-state players a year ago to win a third straight SWBL crown. Not having lost more than one in league play since 2018, the team seems to have figured out how to motivate players to step up and fill roles and it stems from something they do with regularity.



Bellbrook Golden Eagles

Coach: Jeff Jenkins (8th year, 60-16)

2022 record: 9-3 (SWBL East 1st, second round D-III playoffs); Points Per Game: 25.0 (Off.) 14.7 (Def.)

What to expect: Bellbrook won three consecutive league titles for the first time in school history after taking the East Division crown a year ago. Additions to the league will make the road to a fourth more difficult, but the Golden Eagles have it in their sights to extend the school record run.

Key Players: Luke Benetis, Sr., QB (56-115 passing, 686 yards, 10 TD, 5 INT); Jake Lopez, Sr., LB (91 tkls, 63 solo, 12 TFL, 1 FF, 3 INT, 5 pass deflections); Makai Smith, Jr., RB (31 att., 161 yards, 3 TD); Tanner Stewart, Jr., RB (71 att., 629 yards, 4 TD); Jacob Umina, Sr., LB (103 tkls, 61 solo, 4 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 FR, 2 INT, 8 pass deflections)

Captains: Mohammad Al-Halawat; Luke Benetis; Johnny Deszcz; Alex Florea; Charlie Olds; Ethan Sickels

Schedule (all games 7 p.m.)



Sept. 1 — at Valley View

Sept. 8 — at Ponitz CTC

Sept. 15 — at Alter

Sept. 22 — EDGEWOOD

Sept. 29 — at Franklin

Oct. 6 — MONROE

Oct. 13 — OAKWOOD

Oct. 20 — at Ross

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.

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