CINCINNATI -- When the Bethel-Tate football team completed its undefeated regular season Oct. 27, the celebration had just begun.
The entire team was able to commemorate the occasion on the road by wearing special hats donated by a friend of the program.
Bethel-Tate defeated host Fayetteville 53-14 and captured the No. 4 seed in Division V, Region 20.
The Tigers also won the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference National Division -- capturing the program’s first league title since 2000.
“Every kid got a hat so that’s pretty big for our program -- kind of like a college basketball deal,” Bethel-Tate coach Jeff Essig said. “We’re pretty excited.”
The Tigers (10-0) are making their second postseason appearance in school history (the other being 2015). This Friday will be the first home playoff game in program history.
“It’s gigantic for us,” Essig said.
The Tigers host West Jefferson (9-0) in a regional quarterfinal. There are 10-0 signs everywhere around the school community.
“The community is very excited,” Bethel-Tate Athletic Director Steve Large said. “Our home and away crowds have been incredible all year.”
Essig, who is in his second year as the Bethel-Tate head coach, is one of just three coaches for the team during the week.
Former Amelia coach Randy Hospelhorn is the defensive coordinator. Cody Wilson, a former Western Brown right tackle, is the other assistant coach.
Essig was the offensive coordinator at Western Brown for eight years. His spread offensive style is similar to Anderson coach Evan Dreyer's, although Essig admits the Tigers run the ball a bit more often.
The players have bought in.
Bethel-Tate has 46 players including 11 seniors this season. There were 35 players in 2016 and just 21 in 2015.
Bethel-Tate is led by several players including senior quarterback Seth Becker, who has thrown for 2,668 yards and 26 touchdowns. He’s thrown for 300-plus yards in four games this season. Becker has also rushed for 904 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“He’s very electric,” Essig said. “He’s a dual-threat with the ball in his hands.”
Other standouts include senior wide receiver Cooper Dunn who has 57 receptions for 1,073 yards and nine touchdowns. Becker and Dunn haven’t played in the second half in the past four games because of Bethel-Tate’s lopsided results.
Senior running back/linebacker Owen Holtke has rushed for 761 yards and 11 touchdowns. Senior defensive end Bradley Lewis has 16 sacks. Senior linebacker Nate Owens is the team’s leading tackler (89).
St. Xavier (9-1), the reigning Division I state champion, is No. 12 in the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings (computer). St. X is No. 13 nationally in the USA Today Computer Ratings. St. X, the No. 1 seed, plays host to No. 8 seed Fairfield (6-4) Friday night. It is the second straight meeting between the teams in the fist round. St. X, rated No. 2 in the USA Today Midwest rankings, defeated host Fairfield 35-14 in the 2016 playoffs.
Warriors ready for postseason
One of the most promising area teams this postseason is Winton Woods. The Warriors, ranked No. 2 in the season’s final Associated Press Division II state poll, is in the postseason for the first time since 2013. The Warriors (9-1) host Chillicothe (8-2) Friday night. Winton Woods played one of the toughest schedules of any area team this season having defeated two GCL South teams and narrowly losing to visiting Elder (35-34 in overtime) after a missed extra point Oct. 13. Winton Woods is ranked No. 10 in the USA Today Midwest Rankings.
Winton Woods started the season 7-0 -- the best start since the Warriors were 7-0-1 in 1992. Forest Park High School and Greenhills High School merged in ’92. Chillicothe (8-2) is making its third consecutive postseason appearance. The Cavaliers defeated hosted Jackson 31-17 Oct. 27 in order to clinch a postseason berth.
Chillicothe was tied with Harrison for the No. 7 spot until the OHSAA ruled Chillicothe finished No. 7 due to their opponents having 55 combined wins. Harrison finished No. 8 due to 51 wins by its opponents.
Going for a four-peat
Top-seeded La Salle (8-2) plays host to Harrison (8-2) in a Division II, Region 8 quarterfinal Friday night. The Lancers are the three-time reigning state champions and are trying to become the first program in Ohio to win four consecutive state titles since Coldwater (2012-15 in Division V).
“We’re excited to be in the playoffs again,” La Salle coach Pat McLaughlin said. “I think a lot of people have thought that our talent was gone and that a lot of guys have gone on to play college football. And maybe this would be a down year -- and this is a new coach -- and a lot of different things going into it. But it’s a credit to our kids and our staff and the culture that has been built at La Salle.”
Lebanon's Lamb retiring
Lebanon coach Shawn Lamb is retiring from coaching after 13 years as the Warriors' head coach and a 76-54 record. Lebanon was 3-7 overall and 0-3 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference National West Division. He coached 25 years overall but says he's ready to spend more time with his family.
"I'm most proud of the fact that we did it the right way," Lamb said. "Our young men were not just football players, they were good students and great representatives of our school and community."