HS Football Previews: Bellbrook, Cedarville get top ranked foes


XENIA — Two Greene County teams remain as the second week of the postseason gets set to kick off and both will have one question on their minds.

Why not us?

Bellbrook and Cedarville both are set to take on two of the state’s best this week — the Golden Eagles will play Badin, ranked No. 2 in the final Ohio state D-III football poll, while the Indians will face Marion Local, No. 1 in the D-VII poll every week.

Both opponents are undefeated and have been regularly making deep runs in the postseason.

Bellbrook proved itself to be a squad few will be happy to be matching up against this postseason. A 48-0 win in round one at Wilmington was the third shut out produced by the defense this season. The defense has allowed eight points per game during a six-game win streak.

Cedarville got its first playoff win since the bonus 2020 game, overcoming injuries and a rough second half of the season to put together a complete effort against Lehman Catholic.

Neither will be seen as favorites to win in the eye of the public. On the website fantastic50.net created by Drew Pasteur that ranks Ohio high school teams, it gives Bellbrook a 32 percent chance of winning and Cedarville just 1 percent.

But if either have the season end this week, they certainly have the capability to not go down quietly.

Maybe over the course of a series the top ranked teams would come out on top. But in a one game playoff scenario the question is: Why not us?

D-III — No. 9 Bellbrook (8-3) at No. 1 Badin (11-0) (at Fairfield Stadium)

Badin jumped out to a fast start last week against Goshen and cruised to a 41-0 win.

While Bellbrook’s ground attack has been a rising force down the stretch of the season, Badin has been solid against the run this year allowing an average of 109 yards per game. Luke Benetis has performed well for the Bellbrook passing game to complement its run attack, but he’ll face a trio of Badin players that can get after the pass with Nate Ostendorf, Drew Enginger, and Royce Rachel all having at least five sacks this season.

Bellbrook has gained at least 300 yards of offense in wins, and in all three defeats it failed to reach that mark.

Badin’s Alex Ritzie was one of the top passers in the league, throwing for 1,651 yards with a 14-2 touchdown to interception ratio. Aidan Brown has caught nine touchdown passes, and Lem Grayson and Zach Yordy have mostly split the carries and average 5.4 yards per carry between them.

When Badin has faced teams with a below .500 record, its average margin of victory was 33.5 points. But against teams at .500 or above that number goes down to 14.6.

Two years ago these two teams met twice. Badin won 17-7 at Bellbrook during the regular season, and then pulled out a 21-9 win in the regional finals in a game Bellbrook thought it had won with under two minutes left.

D-VII — No. 8 Cedarville (8-3) at No. 1 Marion Local (11-0)

The state’s top-ranked team won its opening playoff game 63-0 last week. That’s about how the majority of the the team’s games have played out this season.

Marion Local was up 28-0 in the first quarter and defensively did not allow a pass to be completed.

The win extended the Flyers’ win streak to 43 in a row over the last three seasons, continuing Marion Local’s run as one of the most decorated Ohio high school teams this century. The two-time reigning state champions have been tested this year on several occasions by schools of all sizes but have passed every one of them. The Flyers won their season opener at D-III Wapakoneta and held off Versailles in a barn burner before closing the regular season by handing D-V Coldwater its only loss of the year.

The top offensive team this season in the highly decorated Midwest Athletic Conference, Marion Local has been well balanced and averaged 196 yards on the ground and 163 in the air during the regular season. The defense also ranked first in allowing 181 yards per game.

Justin Knouff leads the Flyers at quarterback, throwing 20 touchdown passes with a 65 percent completion rate. His top target has been Victor Hoelscher, who averages nearly 19 yards per catch. Ethan Heitkamp has found his way into the endzone more than anyone else on the squad.

Cedarville averages more than 30 points per game, but Marion Local has allowed more than 14 points in just two of its last 34 games dating back to the 2021 season.

These two sides met in the 2020 playoffs with Marion Local winning. In fact, each of Cedarville’s last four wins in the playoffs have now led to a meeting with the Flyers. The previous three matchups have seen Cedarville be outscored 136-0.

The Flyers have 97 wins in OHSAA postseason history which is the highest total of any school in the state.

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on X (formerly Twitter) @Steven_Wright_.

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