Bellbrook battles, comes up short against Badin


FAIRFIELD — Bellbrook did many of the things needed to pull off a football playoff upset Friday.

The Golden Eagles limited turnovers and penalties and moved the ball consistently while mixing up the run and pass.

What Bellbrook didn’t do, however, was finish drives and that led to a 24-6 loss to Hamilton Badin in a Division III second-round game at Fairfield. The Golden Eagles drove inside the Badin 30 five times and were inside the red zone three times and only had six points to show for it.

Badin, meanwhile, scored on its first three drives in the first half and added a field goal on its opening drive in the second-half.

There’s the difference.

“Felt like we were moving the ball pretty well, really all night,” Coach Jeff Jenkins said. “Putting ourselves in a good position to score points. Got in the red zone and couldn’t punch it in and get any points out of that so that’s disappointing.”

— On their second drive, the Golden Eagles drove to the Rams 27 and went for it on fourth and two but lost two yards on a running play.

— On the final drive in the first half, Bellbrook went from its 25 to the Badin 11 and tried a field goal that was wide left.

— Down 24-6 in the fourth, the Golden Eagles went 59 yards to the Rams one-yard line. One fourth-and-goal, a direct snap to the running back was high and it resulted in a 10-yard loss.

— Midway through the fourth, Bellbrook drove from its 28 to the Badin 27 and had a fourth-and-13 pass tipped away at the last second on what appeared to be a drive-extending play.

“Badin is a solid team,” Jenkins said. “You’ve got to convert on those opportunities and we did not tonight.”

Unofficially, Bellbrook out-gained the top-seeded Rams 308-296.

Senior QB Luke Benetis completed 19 of 34 passes for 221 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Sophomore receiver Noah Barrios had seven catches for 103 yards and senior receiver Johnny Descz had six catches for 48 yards and one TD.

Junior Makai Smith had seven carries for 21 yards and five receptions for 34 yards, while junior Tanner Stewart had 19 carries for 41 yards.

A lot of those passing yards came in the second half as Bellbrook tried to mount a comeback after the defense held the Rams to just 71 yards in the final 24 minutes.

“I’m super proud of their effort the second half,” Jenkins said. “A lot of teams would have given up, packed it and called it a season. Our guys continued to fight really to the last second, last play of the game. I thought we won the second half.”

Bellbrook took the game’s opening kick and gained 24 yards on the first three plays but had to punt after picking up one first down.

On a third-and-nine play on the Rams first drive, senior QB Alex Ritzie hit senior receiver Carson Cheek with a 76-yard TD pass and a 7-0 lead with about eight minutes left in the first quarter.

Bellbrook began its next drive on its 40 and made it to the Badin 27 before going for it on fourth-and-two.

The Rams used a pair of big plays — a 34-yard run by sophomore Lem Grayson and a pass to senior receiver Aidan Brown for 20 yards — to set up a seven-yard scoring run by Grayson.

Bellbrook had to punt after five plays on its next drive and the Rams went 92 yards to take a 21-0 lead with 4:20 left in the half.

The Golden Eagles (8-4) put together a 13-play drive on the next possession, which ended with the missed field goal at halftime.

“I think at the time (the lead) was 21, so we thought if we do come back in this game, it’s going to be a very tight score and those three points would be extremely valuable for us,” Jenkins said of the decision to try a field goal.

The Rams moved from their 29 to the Bellbrook 14 to start the third and kicked a 31-yard field to take a 24-0 lead with 6:23 left.

Badin squibbed the ensuing kick and Bellbrook started from its 25, going 75 yards for a touchdown. Benetis rolled right and found Descz open for a two-yard score. A two-point try failed.

Bellbrook forced a three-and-out on the next possession and took over at its 40 early in the fourth quarter. The Golden Eagles made it to the one before trying the direct snap on fourth down. On the play, Benetis moved out from under center and the snap to Stewart in the backfield was high.

Bellbrook had two more possessions after that. One ended at the Rams 37 on the aforementioned tipped pass. The other ended on an interception.

The Golden Eagles have 10 seniors — according to their roster on the Southwestern Buckeye League website — who won 36 games, including seven in the post-season, and four straight league titles.

“We’re gonna miss them,” Jenkins said. “They played in many many big games just like this. I’m really proud of the way they competed, all throughout their career. They kind of set the tone for future classes of what the expectation is, to win league titles, get in the playoffs, win playoff games. We’ll keep knocking on this door man, and then we’ll eventually break it down.”

The 12-0 Rams — No. 2 in the final state poll — play 10-2 Wapakoneta in a regional semifinal on Nov. 10.

Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

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