By Garth Shanklin
The Bethel-Tate Tigers’ soccer team appears to be picking up where the squad left off in 2016.
So far, Bethel-Tate is 9-2 overall and a perfect 7-0 in the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference National Division. The team’s start to the season is a pleasing one, according to head coach Dave Schellenberger.
“We’re happy about that,” Schellenberger said. “We just finished off a win over Georgetown, who I thought was a pretty good team this year. It was a good victory for us.”
The team’s victory over Georgetown on Sept. 21 was the G-Men’s first loss since Aug. 24, a 6-2 defeat by the same Bethel-Tate squad. The Tigers only two losses this season are at the hands of a pair of American Division teams, Batavia and New Richmond.
“Both of those games could have went either way,” Schellenberger said. “They should have been ties, we gave up late goals. It was very competitive, both of them. We need to play those kind of teams occassionally. They were good losses for us to play, I wasn’t upset with those two losses.”
Bethel-Tate’s offense has been prolific at times this season, with the squad having scored at least six goals in five of 11 contests. The team has scored at least four goals in all but three games. Schellenberger had a few different reasons for the team’s offensive prowess.
“Some of the reason is some of the teams are down this year,” Schellenberger said. “Our division is one of the weaker divisions. We’re trying to improve that, all the teams are doing better this year.”
In terms of on-field reasoning, the return of Lukas Papadatos is a huge boost to the Tiger offense. Papadatos entered play on Sept. 26 seventh in the city with 39 points, and his 18 goals tie him for fourth.
“We’ve also had some of the guys come back,” Schellenberger said. “Papadatos didn’t get the chance to play last year because he was sick, and he’s back this year. He’s like the fifth or sixth leading scorer in the city, he’s put a lot of balls in the net for us this year.”
However, Papadatos is not the only Tiger with an offensive flair. Sean Fallis has collected nine goals, and Corey Struve has 13 assists on the season. That kind of selfless play is a hallmark of the Bethel-Tate attack in 2017.
“This is one of the best teams I’ve coached as a unit,” Schellenberger said. “We’ve got guys coming off the bench who could easily start, we go about 14, 15 deep this year. He’s not the only one that’s put balls in the net, I think everyone on the team has scored at least one or two goals. That helps him get open, and if he’s not, someone else can score. A lot of the balls come from Struve on the outside right half. He’s had a great season, one of the leading assist guys in the city. This team is very unselfish, we use everybody and I think that’s a credit to our success this year.”
Defensively, goalkeeper Tyler Baker continues his improvement between the pipes for the Tigers.
“He’s getting stronger each game,” Schellenberger said. “He’s surrounded by a couple tall guys that win a lot of balls out of the air, John Day and Chase Leonard. In the middle we have Robby Perkins, and to me he’s one of the best players on our team. He has a knack for finding balls and chasing them down.”
Schellenberger added Baker has done an excellent job keeping hold of his position over the last two seasons.
“I wasn’t sure last year if I was going to start him, but he won the job and hasn’t lost it yet. He’s doing a great job.”
Baker is one of four seniors on the Tigers this season, and the group has taken a leadership role among the remaining Tiger players.
“They’re a good group of guys to be around,” Schellenberger said. “They take the game serious, I don’t have to constantly be on them to tell them what to do. Come game time, I just have to watch and coach a little bit. They get it going, they get everything rolling right away. It’s a pleasure to coach these guys.”
The Tigers are gearing up for a postseason run with a bit of a twist this season, as the team has changed divisions from last year.
“We’ve moved up from Division III to II,” Schellenberger said. “We’re not quite getting the recognition we got in Division III, we’re not getting the votes that help in the draw at the end of the season. We’re not getting a lot of attention out of teams, so it’s going to be tough for us in the tournaement. I’m just hoping we’re a sleeper team or a surprise team and we have our best games in the tournament.”
Bethel-Tate has a trio of games remaining on their schedule before the start of the sectional tournament. The Tigers travel to Blanchester on Tuesday, Oct. 3 for their final league game of the season at 5 p.m.
On Monday, Oct. 9 Bethel-Tate hosts Northwest High School for a 7 p.m. tilt, followed by another 7 p.m. game against Gamble Montessori on Thursday, Oct. 12.