BETHEL – The end of October was not kind to Bethel-Tate High School’s football team as the Tigers dropped three straight to finish the season at 5-5.
Coach Bill Jenike’s squad was vying for the school’s first winning season in 14 years. On the upside, it was Bethel-Tate’s first non-losing season in five years as they also finished 5-5 in 2009.
In other good news, junior quarterback Jeffrey Botts, who was taken off the field in Blanchester on a stretcher Oct. 31, is well. He was taken to Bethesda North that night, but later returned home.
“He tried to make something happen,” Jenike said. “He was tired and worn out. He mentioned he had a tingle in his back. There was only a couple minutes in the game. He’s fine. He’s probably wrestling today.”
Blanchester blitzed Botts and Bethel-Tate 41-14 on Halloween. The signal-caller is usually hard to hurt but becomes vulnerable when he’s involved in nearly every aspect of the game. If you watch No. 26, he does everything but play in the marching band at halftime.
Botts had 501 yards rushing, led the team in scoring, kickoff returns, punt returns and punting and was the team’s second-leading tackler. He also kicked four extra points and threw one touchdown pass out of a run-heavy Wing-T offense.
Leading the team with 1,375 yards rushing and in tackles was sophomore Stephen Cooper. He recorded games of 318 and 304 yards against Clermont Northeastern and Williamsburg, respectively. Coach Jenike is looking forward to another season of pounding the ball with the pair.
“We need some more weight on Botts and Cooper for next year,” Jenike said.
Both missed snippets of games and senior back Allan Haave missed three games. Freshman Austin Carter lacerated at kidney at Manchester and missed the last four games.
Many of those injuries played a part in the Tigers dropping from 5-2 to 5-5.
Despite the ailments, they had chances. They only trailed Batavia 7-0 at the half and were able to tie them at 14 in the third quarter Oct. 17. But, the Bulldogs prevailed with two late scores, 28-14.
Against Williamsburg Oct. 24, they were up 21-14 and scored on three of their first four possessions. After that, the Wildcats took over; scoring 27 consecutive points.
“The last three games we didn’t stop anybody very well,” Jenike said. “We were looking for the magic six wins and didn’t get them. We just didn’t have the depth. We’re not playing with all of the pieces we really want, but who really is? We just told them this works when you do your job and how important it was to trust the guy next to them.”
At the beginning of the season, Jenike went back to defensive and offensive schemes he was more comfortable with and it helped the Tigers get out to a 3-0 start. Eight now return to the offense that had success carrying the football.
“They’ll be really good in what we do next year,” Jenike said. “A lot of people do all of these formations and they try to do too much and lose their identity. We know what our identity is. You can ask any of our kids, ‘It’s fourth down and one, what are we going to run?’ They’re going to say buck sweep because they think it’s the best play.”
While not a playoff team, Bethel-Tate upped their confidence with the season’s fast start. Jenike has noticed the change since his first game as a coach in 2012.
After an opening loss at Landmark Christian, he was puzzled when he entered the locker room the next day to find a quiet team. The year before they had lost all of their games and the previous season featured just one win.
Job one at Bethel-Tate was instilling confidence and motivating the athletes to play through the next play. Gradually, attitudes have changed and this season there was a noticeable difference in behavior at practices and games.
“They run on and off the field and kids encourage one another instead of going, ‘Here we go again,’” Jenike said. “It’s funny how a little football can change a community.”
He’s also tried to build chemistry through team dinners on Thursdays and by fixing up the weight room.
“The kids are asking when the weight room is open,” Jenike said. “The first two years you couldn’t find anybody in it.”
From here, he hopes the growth continues. He has Tim Pickrell on staff, who knows the Wing-T offense from working with former Tigers coach Donnie Sizer at Western Brown. Pickrell also is a Bethel native who was around when they were Southern Buckeye champs.
The challenge again is to scour the hallways, weight room, wrestling room and general vicinity for anyone who might look good in a silver helmet helping the cause.
In many cases a deeper roster equals a deeper season.
For 2014, Botts, Cooper and senior Nate Staten were named SBAAC-National first teamers. Sophomores Caleb Bastin and Kermit Beckworth and freshman Owen Holtke made second team.
In his third season, Jenike was award SBAAC-National Coach of the Year.