TROTWOOD — As quickly as it appeared the game was in Bellbrook’s hands, it reversed course into heartbreak.
Hamilton Badin scored the go-ahead touchdown with 40 seconds remaining and came away with a 21-9 win in the Division III regional finals at Trotwood Madison High School on Friday.
With 1:25 to go and leading 9-7, Bellbrook forced Badin into a field goal attempt from 35 yards to try and take the lead. The kick came up short and Bellbrook players began to celebrate believing the game was over, but a running into the kicker penalty gave the ball back to Badin.
“It’s a crucial call at a crucial point in the game,” head coach Jeff Jenkins said. “I was just surprised by the call and that it was made. I’m not saying it was the wrong call or the right call because I was more focused on the kick that was missed. That’s where I’m at with that.”
Two plays later, Badin running back Jack Walsh ran in a touchdown from 13 yards out to give his team the lead.
Bellbrook had a final chance to drive for the win, but after losing five yards on a delay of game penalty, an interception was thrown on a fourth-down pass which was returned for a touchdown and the final margin.
“They played great. You can’t ask for anything better,” Jenkins said of his defense. “Gave up a couple big runs late but besides that you can’t ask for anything better against the top quality opponent.”
Badin (13-0) came into the game averaging 35 points per game, but Bellbrook had run its consecutive quarter shutout streak to five before Badin broke through late.
Bellbrook forced two straight turnovers of the Badin offense to start the game. An interception by Cameron Strong and a heads-up fumble recovery for Eldon Korber halted both drives.
A 42-yard field goal by Connor Peh that came in between the two turnovers on Bellbrook’s first drive gave them a 3-0 lead.
Badin punted at the end of each of its next three drives in the half, only crossing midfield due to a roughing the passer penalty. The score remained 3-0 into the half.
Bellbrook went on a 16-play, 92-yard drive, which included 13 straight plays for Seth Borondy, starting in the third quarter and running into the fourth to extend its lead. After a Borondy halfback pass attempt had pass interference called on Badin, Nick Etienne ran for a 20-yard touchdown for the Golden Eagles to go up 9-0.
Badin finally got its offense going after six scoreless possessions and closed the gap with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 7:08 remaining. Bellbrook was forced to punt, which set up Badin’s go-ahead touchdown drive with 4:15 to go.
“We thought we needed to run the clock to continue drives and we did a really good job with that for the majority of the game,” Jenkins said. “We really wanted to play the field position game all game long and if we had to punt and pin them that’s exactly what we were going to do. We came out and had an excellent drive there to go up nine, but we just couldn’t hold on long enough.”
Badin, which had also won a regular season meeting 17-7 in week two between the two teams, advances to play Granville in the state semifinals.
Bellbrook ends its season with a 10-3 record and as co-SWBL East Division champions. An emotional Jenkins after the game expressed the “tremendous legacy” he felt Bellbrook’s 12 seniors had accomplished. He said it was easy to see how much the coaching staff, community and school loved the team and how hard the team had worked to advance in the playoffs.
“Three league championships, five playoff wins, and three playoff appearances. A regional runner-up is a very big deal and we took arguably the best team in the state down to the wire.”
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.