The Bethel-Tate Tigers entered last Friday night’s home finale with a chance to make history.
Blanchester came to town to face the 7-2 Wildcats, who could all but clinch a playoff berth with a victory.
Things started off on the right foot for the Tigers. The team turned their second drive of the game into points thanks to a 35-yard run by Austin Carter. Jeffrey Botts converted the extra point attempt to put Bethel ahead 7-0 with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats entered the game at just 3-6 overall, but they had plenty of fight in them. They answered Bethel’s long touchdown run with a lengthy one of their own on the very next possession, as Tristan Greene struck for a 58-yard run to tie the game at seven just before the end of the first quarter.
Yet again, the Tigers answered. Cooper sprinted into the end-zone from 33 yards away to put the Tigers back on top 14-7 with 11:14 left in the half.
Nine minutes later, Blanchester evened things up. Hunter Collier dove in from the one yard-line and, after a made extra point, the game was tied at 14.
It stayed that way for less than a minute. Botts broke off a 57-yard run to give Bethel a 21-14 lead at the halftime break.
Blanchester pulled within one with 4:50 left in the third. Collier scored again, this time from three-yards out, but the team was forced to go for two after an injury to their holder a few plays before. The option run was no good, and Bethel maintained a 21-20 lead.
Botts broke off another long run in the fourth quarter, scoring from 73 yards out to increase the Tigers lead to eight. They would go on to win by that 28-20 margin.
Cooper led the Tigers in carries with 17, but gained just 56 yards on the ground. Botts had 16 carries for 201 yards and the two long touchdowns. Carter finished with three carries for 40 yards and his touchdown.
Head coach Bill Jenike said Botts’ strength in his lower body is key to his success as a runner.
“He’s a good runner with great balance and strength in his lower body,” Jenike said. “What people don’t realize is that he can squat 400 pounds. With that balance and core strength that he has, he’s hard to knock down.”
It was not just the offense that played well for the Tigers. Jenike said all parts of the team played well against the Wildcats.
“We played well on all three facets of the game,” Jenike said. “We always talk about special teams and how important it is. We haven’t given anything up return-wise this year. We do what we do. We try to control the clock and get short fields.”
The victory earned the Tigers a playoff match-up against Coldwater Friday night. Jenike says it will be a difficult task.
“They’re an excellent football program,” Jenike said. “They’ve won five championships in the last eight to 10 years. They’re in great condition and they’re sound in what they do. They do a great job preparing for us, I’m sure they’re going to look at it as a tough game also. We plan on coming out on the winning end, we’re going to do the best we can.”
Regardless of the outcome, just making the playoffs has had a positive impact on not only the school, but the community as a whole.
“It’s been huge,” Jenike said. “People now realize we’re in the playoffs. It’s real now. The town’s excited, the students, administration, restaurants, everyone is excited. It’s a big deal. School is going to let out early Friday at noon to allow people to travel.”