By Garth Shanklin
In front of a packed Homecoming crowd, the Bethel-Tate offense wasted no time putting on a show for the home fans in a 56-31 win over Clermont Northeastern on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.
After Bethel-Tate started the game with an onside kick recovery, quarterback Seth Becker connected with wide receiver Drake Dockery from 52 yards out, giving Bethel-Tate a 6-0 lead just 35 seconds into the first quarter.
Tigers’ head coach Jeff Essig said the team wanted to do something to snag momentum early, and the special teams squad was able to execute the play, though they weren’t perfect on the day.
“We wanted to make sure that we set the tone early,” Essig said. “Doing that gave us the momentum early. We’re happy with the way our special teams played in that aspect of the game. We had one run back on us, a missed PAT here…we have to shore some things up, that’s for sure. We aren’t perfect, we still have some work to do.”
After stopping the Rockets on fourth down later in the period, Becker marched the team back down the field and scored again, this time hitting Dockery from seven yards out.
CNE responded, with Matthew Jenkins taking the kickoff back to the house for a touchdown, cutting the Tiger lead to 12-7 with 3:04 left in the first quarter.
Becker then hit Cooper Dunn for the first of Dunn’s three touchdown receptions, and Dockery’s two-point conversion snag gave the Tigers a commanding 20-7 lead after on quarter.
Clermont Northeastern head coach Jeremy Fishback said his team’s slow start was because of a lack of execution.
“We didn’t play tonight,” Fishback said. “We didn’t come out and execute the gameplan we put together. It would have been just fine but we didn’t execute. We came out flat. It is what it is, you take your hat off to them. They played good ball tonight.”
Fishback said the team needed to play more like Matthew Jenkins, who had two huge recepionts for first downs and a kick returned for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“He came out tonight ready to go, I just wish I had 11 more doing the same thing,” Fishback said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board and we’ll come out next week ready. We play Blanchester, another good team. We have to come back together, put our thinking caps on and go back to work.Fishback added praise to his teams mentality regarding the fourth quarter comeback in which the Rockets scored 17 points while allowing none.
“They’re not going to quit,” Fishback said. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys that’ll fight through adversity, but they’re young and sometimes you’ll get young player mistakes. We’ll keep working, we’ll get better each week we’re out here and come back ready to go.”
Clermont Northeastern drew within six points again early in the second quarter on a 21-yard touchdown run by Dakota Hawk. Bethel-Tate quickly struck any notion of a comeback down with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Becker to Dunn, pushing the lead back to 26-14.
After CNE missed a field goal, Bethel-Tate running back Owen Hotlke ripped off an 80-yard run that included him being tackled on top of a CNE defender. Holtke alertly got up and kept running for the score.
The teams traded possessions until late in the second quarter, when Becker tossed his third touchdown pass of the game to Dunn. Bethel-Tate led 42-14 at the half.
Dockery started the second half with a 48-yard touchdown reception, his third of the game, to put the Tigers on top 49-14. Becker added his seventh total touchdown on a one-yard keeper at the 1:04 mark of the third quarter for a 56-14 Tiger lead.
The fourth quarter started poorly for CNE, with the Rockets having a first and goal inside the Bethel-Tate five and failing to score any points. The team recorded a safety, then a touchdown run on a one-yard run by Dustin Lykins to cut the deficit to 56-23. CNE recovered the ensuing on side kick, then scored again on a 47-yard run by Luke Rayburn. The Tigers recovered the next kick and held on to ice the game from there.
With the win, Bethel-Tate became the sixth Bethel-Tate team to ever win seven games in a season. Essig and the squad are one win away from tying the all-time record for the Tigers of eight wins in a season, set in 1968.
“It feels great,” Essig said. “We’re one away from the 1968 team, I believe, that went 8-0 back in the Clermont County League when they played eight games. It’s an exciting time. I’m looking forward to traveling to East Clinton next week already, we’re excited to continue doing what we’re doing.”
Becker completed 21 passes for 349 yards and six touchdowns. He also carried the ball 13 times for 89 yards and another score. Holtke added 13 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown, earning praise from his head coach.
“He deserves it, he’s a kid who works very hard on both sides of the ball,” Essig said. “[Becker] will get his as long as he plays smart and does what we ask him to do.”
Hawk led CNE with 19 yards on 84 yards and a touchdown. Joslin added 54 on 16 carries, well below what the Rockets hoped for from their star running backs. Essig said the Tigers planned to stop the run from the beginning, and defensive coordinator Randy Hospelhorn’s gameplan worked to perfection.
“We knew that’s what they wanted to do,” Essig said. “Their guys up front are very big, bigger than us. We had the scheme to try and stop that run game. Coach Hosepelhorn did a great job this week getting the defense ready.”
The Tigers’ had another advantage on the field as well: crowd noise. Bethel-Tate packed the house for Homecoming and it was not lost on their head coach.
“It’s awesome,” Essig said. “You look over there, and it’s filled up and there are people lining the fence. The excitement here is tremendous and we’re so thankful for the support of the community.”
Bethel-Tate visits East Clinton for their next game while Clermont Northeastern travels to Blanchester.