WAPAKONETA — Bellbrook has been able to consistently control the line of scrimmage over the years, but it found itself without that advantage during a rematch from last season’s playoffs.
Wapakoneta’s line play made life difficult for the Golden Eagles throughout Friday’s game and shut down Bellbrook’s attack in a 29-0 win at Mercy Health Field in the Division III regional quarterfinals.
“They beat us up front for the majority of the game on both sides of the ball,” head coach Jeff Jenkins said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times, couldn’t get a crucial fourth and one and we were sloppy at points.”
The two sides met last season in the same round with Bellbrook winning that matchup at home, but the roles were reversed Friday.
Bellbrook was only able to produce four first downs in the first three quarters of play and were forced into grinding out every yard it could manage each time it had the ball.
Trailing 13-0 early in the third, Wapakoneta managed to block a Bellbrook punt out of the end zone for a safety. Jenkins said he felt that play was the biggest in the game.
“At that point it was still pretty tight and it allowed them to get the ball back and good field position,” he said. “The little details matter so greatly in these playoff games and we didn’t do a good job taking care of them.”
Bellbrook’s defense, which the team had successfully leaned on for most of the season, kept their side in the game into the final minutes before reaching its breaking point in allowing a late touchdown run in the final minutes. A pick-six followed on Bellbrook’s next drive to drive up the final score.
“There isn’t no other way around allowing 29 points,” Jenkins said. “They kind of whooped out butts tonight, and in football that happens. We’ve been on the other side of those a lot of times and it’s rare we’re on this side of it.”
Wapakoneta only had a 189-152 total yardage advantage, but forced four turnovers and had a fourth down stop in addition to the blocked punt.
Elijah Brooks was held to 65 yards rushing on 20 carries. Luke Benetis made the majority of his pass attempts late in the game, going 6 of 19 for 49 yards and three interceptions.
Wapakoneta on its third play from scrimmage got a pass by Caleb Moyer over the top of the Bellbrook defense into the hands of Grant Jolly who ran uncontested down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown reception and a 7-0 lead for the Redskins just under three minutes into the game.
Benetis threw an interception on the Golden Eagles’ ensuing possession, but his defense held in their on territory. Kyle Beach with assistance from the wind nailed a school record 51-yard field goal to put his team up 10.
Bellbrook got its offense moving to open the second quarter and got the Wapakoneta defense on its heels following a 22-yard run by Brooks. The drive stalled though at the Redskins’33 and Benetis fourth down throw toward Tanner Killen sailed wide of his dive.
Wapakoneta tried to add onto its lead before halftime, but a sack by Connor Pund for Bellbrook helped push them out of field goal range having reversed into the wind. Moyer instead was called on for a heave into the end zone from 30 yards and it went out of bounds to keep the lead at 10-0 into halftime.
Bellbrook’s seniors end their careers having won their third Southwestern Buckeye League title and produced six playoff victories.
“We’re going to keep knocking on that regional title door,” Jenkins said. “Keep pushing ourselves in non-conference and trying to win league championships.
“These seniors really set the standard not just as football players but as men. … They continued the winning tradition here at Bellbrook and I’m very proud of them.”