Bethel’s football progress has rocketed each season since favorite son Scott Clodfelter, a celebrated alum, left Beavercreek High School for the Bees five seasons ago.
Each of those previous four Bees teams has improved record-wise, including last year’s 9-2 team that advanced to the playoffs for only the third time in program history.
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Maintaining that excellence and annually contending for a Cross County Conference title and spot in the postseason is the new norm.
“That’s our next step,” said Clodfelter during Monday’s first day of preseason practice. “We’ve never had that here. It’s always been build, build, build. Now, it’s going to be build, then sustain. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
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The Ohio High School Athletic Association allowed football to get a preseason jump start on the other fall sports, which will open their conditioning on Wednesday. Those sports are golf, cross country, soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball and field hockey.
Golf’s regular season is up first, beginning on Saturday. Most football teams will have two-three scrimmages between Aug. 7-18 and will open their seasons on Friday, Aug. 24.
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Leaning on a run-heavy offense, high-scoring Bethel averaged 52 points during the 2017 regular season. The Bees lost only to CCC champion Miami East 50-29 in a Week 5 shootout showdown.
CCC newcomer Fort Loramie (8-3) and Ansonia (6-5) joined Bethel and Miami East in the postseason, but all were eliminated in the first round. East was seeded No. 1 in Division V, Region 20, but was upset 27-25 by Cincinnati Reading. Bethel was no match for perennial state power Coldwater, 42-7, in D-VI, Region 24 play.
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Loramie lost to neighboring Minster to begin (20-0) and end (40-24) the season. Ansonia recovered from a 1-4 start by winning five straight regular-season games, but was taken out by Crestview 63-22 in another D-VII, Region 28 first-rounder.
That playoff presence doesn’t include perennial CCC title contender Covington (5-5), Arcanum (4-6) or upstart Tri-Village (3-7). All those programs make a great area small-school impact on Divisions V, VI and VII.
“There’s some good football played in this league,” said Clodfelter, who remains a teacher in the Beavercreek City School District. “It’s going in the right direction. You’ve got three or four traditional powers and we’ll sneak up every now and then.”
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Bethel senior QB/wingback Jacob Ullmer rushed for nearly 700 yards and had another 300 receiving yards to account for 11 touchdowns last season. Kendall James had 500 yards receiving and eight scores. Defensively, linebackers Dylan Kelley and Jared Evans were 1-2 in tackles.
Darius Smith, a move-in from Hawaii (military family) will be a welcome – and speedy – backfield addition.
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Bethel hosts Northridge (1-9 last season) of the Southwestern Buckeye League in Week 1. The Week 5 showdown at Miami East will be carried live on the ABC 22/FOX 45’s Thursday Night Lights (Sept. 20).
“We’ve improved every year and we’re headed in the right direction,” Clodfelter said. “The key to a school like this is you can’t have those major valleys. You have to keep those to a minimum. Our goal is to keep us stable and moving forward.”
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