Tipp outlasts Bellbrook in season opener

VANDALIA -- The goal of all athletic programs is to establish the routine of reloading, not rebuilding. Bellbrook and Tippecanoe are two schools finding that form in football.

Meeting for the third time in 12 months, there was plenty of unfamiliarity Friday between the Eagles and Red Devils in the season opener. Bellbrook graduated 10 players that earned All-Southwestern Buckeye League honors off last year’s Division III regional finalist that beat Tipp 38-7 in the quarterfinals. The Red Devils lost 13 All-Miami Valley League selections.

Next man up.

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Capitalizing on a 35-yard touchdown run by senior Evan Liette with 4:29 to play, Tipp outlasted Bellbrook 14-10 in a game played at Vandalia-Butler’s Memorial Stadium due to ongoing renovations at Tipp’s City Park Stadium.

The Eagles beat the Red Devils 24-14 in last year’s opener.

Liette, who started at slot receiver on junior varsity a season ago, also picked up a 12-yard gain on third-and-10 with under two minutes to play that iced the win.

“It was hard to get in reps on varsity last year, we had a huge senior class,” Liette said. “I was fine with that. But, I knew this year was my time to shine. I put in the work in the offseason, and I was ready to show up.”

The Red Devils first touchdown was a 26-yard second quarter pass from senior Liam Poronsky to senior Stanley Clyne. Poronsky was one of the few Tipp starters back, while Clyne, a basketball standout, had not played football since freshman year.

“It’s definitely next man up,” Poronosky said. “What I love about having brand new faces in the huddle is that they are all so hungry to play. They’ve seen our success and they want to be a part of it. They want to go out there and perform.”

Bellbrook staked a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 26-yard touchdown pass from junior Luke Benetis to senior Tanner Killen that capped the game’s opening drive.

The Eagles were able to convert 8-of-11 third downs in the first half, but had three double-digit play drives end in punts and a turnover on downs.

Benetis was one of several Bellbrook players affected by cramps and exited the game on the Eagles’ third play of the third quarter. He came back for one play on the ensuing drive and didn’t appear again until Bellbrook’s final possession. Sophomore Gavin McConnell played in his absence.

Bellbrook took a 10-7 lead on a 24-yard field goal by Riley Ferrin with 7:04 left in the fourth. The Eagles had third-and-goal at the 2-yardline, but a false start penalty and incompletion forced the kick.

“We had issues with cramping that significantly derailed our offense,” Bellbrook head coach Jeff Jenkins said. “But, we had our chances. We were down near the end zone late in the game and we have to punch that in. We got three points and it should have been seven.”

Tipp, which had been held to 44 yards on its previous four possessions, began the ensuing game-winning drive at its own 15.

“We knew if we stayed true to ourselves we had a chance of breaking one and we did,” Tipp coach Matt Burgbacher said. “We’ve got a whole new offense besides our QB, and they grew up big time tonight.”

The Eagles outgained the Red Devils 281-222. Neither team had a turnover.

Bellbrook (0-1) is at Miamisburg next Friday, while Tipp (1-0) travels to Sidney.

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