By: Sara Wolf
The fact that current Friday nights aren’t occupied with football games doesn’t mean that the football team isn’t putting in work and making improvements for when the season does come. “The team has been putting together the best offseason ever and we are working on the little things,” says 2018 senior Keion Driscoll. Jeff Jenkins, entering into his second season as Bellbrook’s head coach, set up a new offseason routine for the players. The new training schedule started just a month after this past season ended. Players stay after school to lift two days a week, and go to Fast Twitch to improve speed and agility two other days, leaving one school day off a week. In addition, some players are taking a lifting class period with their coach during the school day or have 7×1’s after school to get to know plays better. Many even get a group of players together to go to the field and work out or watch game film on their own time.
What will this next season look like? 2018 Seniors Alex Mumy, Drew Ashurst, and Skylar Golden hope to see their team win league and make playoffs. Driscoll hopes the same. “Besides [winning league], I want to get better than 7-3,” he stated. The team accomplished a record last year of 7 wins, 3 losses. It’s been over a decade since a BHS football team has had an 8-2 record. Senior Jack Campbell reflects on the team’s abilities. “We have the talent to win every game, but that’s a really really hard thing to do. So I want to win league, and compete every game, because we have the pieces to do that.”
Coach Jenkins hopes that this season, his players will work to be better than they were the day before. “I want them to just take the season day by day, not focused on end results or the end of the season,” he explained. “Just focused on the day, getting better each and every day, and making the most out of every day, that’s it.” Many players are handling the offseason with this mindset already, knowing it will channel into their performance in the fall. “I want the team to perform at its highest potential at every lifting, practice, and game. I want us to constantly get better and grow together,” says 2018 junior Brendan Labensky.
This next season shows new challenges like coaching adjustments and the loss of many key players in the 2017 class, but nothing curbs the determination of the players on the team, many of whom are already stepping things up and leading. When asked who on the team leads and pushes others to be better, a wide consensus among varsity returners and their coach was their QB, Labensky. “I see our quarterback, Brendan Labensky, really stepping up as our leader, our go-to guy,” says Jenkins. “I think he’ll have much more confidence this year, physically and mentally, I think he’s in great shape and he’s ready to take on this season and lead this team.”
Labensky is entering into his junior year, having played the quarterback position on varsity for his first year as a sophomore. He had 1018 passing yards in 2016, pushing the school record and earning the trust of his teammates. The faith the team and coaching staff invested in Labensky shaped the course of his success last season. “Before the season started [Jenkins] pulled me to the side and told me that he believed in me and trusted in me being the quarterback,” recalls Labensky. “That meant a lot to me because I never heard something like that from him before. It motivated me to be the best I could and it made me want to make him proud.” 2018 Junior Ethan Knisley says he has trust in Labensky this next season. “He shows great work ethic and knows how to run the team.” Labensky sees a lot of leadership this next year in the hands of his 2018 senior teammates Cole Taylor, Ethan Savey, and Keion Driscoll, along with fellow junior Hayden Bullock. “Savey and Cole are both hard workers and will do whatever it takes to help the team. I think Keion leads the team by example by constantly improving and getting better. Hayden Bullock has made some major improvements as well and I can also see him as a vocal leader this season.”
Each player’s goals keep them pushing through the offseason towards Friday nights. Their goals go beyond just winning. “My goal is to be remembered,” says senior Cole Taylor. “I don’t want to be just another Bellbrook team where we get lost in the shuffle like most of the others. I want our team to flow smoothly together so that when we hit the field, there’s nothing that can stop us.” Golden wants to be able to impact underclassmen teammates. “My goal is to start all games this season as well as to set an example for the younger players on the team.” Campbell, the only returning defensive back, wants to break the school record by having over 10 interceptions. These accomplishments can be made through the strength of the team. “I think every player pushes each other to be better,” explains Driscoll. “We all have the same goals and if someone is slacking, then we hold each other accountable.”
The strength of the team is thanks to their coaches. Like other sports, the players greatly respect their coaches, but the lessons their coaches teach them through the game are what makes football different. “Jenkins has taught me to keep pushing forward even if life doesn’t go your way,” explains Labensky. “He teaches us to respond to adversity by staying focused on the goal and having a short memory.” Campbell says he’s learned that if you want something, you have to work harder than everyone else. He’s also learned a lot from Jenkins’ dedication to his players, and explains a moment he saw it most last year. “I drove by the middle school in the spring or summer before the season, after I had gotten off work. I got off work really late, it was past midnight, and Jenkins was in there watching film. It was just crazy to see how much he cared about us.”
Bellbrook football has worked hard for the season ahead, but is still facing a tough schedule when the season begins. The first two games of the season are home against Tippecanoe and Fairborn. The boys will then have a televised away game as a part of ABC22/Fox45’s Thursday Night Lights series, like they did this past season against Tecumseh. They will go to play Tecumseh again on September 8. “Thursday Night Lights was a good deal for us,” recalls Jenkins. “That really got the community energized and we put on a great show; we certainly played our best that night. That was one that sits at the top of my list.”