Few athletic programs have experienced the success Bellbrook High School has in boys soccer.
The Eagles entered this season as favorites for their 16th straight Southwestern Buckeye League title.
Thursday, Bellbrook netted a different kind of milestone.
With an 8-0 win over host Milton-Union, Bellbrook became the 14th school in state history to record its 300th victory. Since their first season in 1982, the Eagles are 300-126-51.
The last 20 years have been the most impressive. From 1987-2006, Bellbrook went 272-66-44. That’s an average record of 14-3-2 each season for two straight decades.
Over that same span, the Eagles have won 18 of 20 SWBL titles.
“We haven’t matched Carroll yet,” Bellbrook head coach Charlie Luse said. “They won what? Nineteen straight (in the MML). That’s impressive. I don’t care what league you are in. To be able to reload and dominate like that says a lot about your athletes.”
The Eagles thrive on sustaining excellence and their grasp on the SWBL. Through 10 games Bellbrook has tightened its grip. The Eagles are 8-2 overall and 6-0 in the league. After starting the season 1-2 with losses to Alter and Hilliard Davidson, Bellbrook has won seven straight.
“(Winning the league title) is expected,” senior Tom Kaffenberger said. “When you come in you look at it as just another year to go get it.”
“I guess when we walk on the field it’s expected,” Luse said. “We’ve been king of the hill for so long. And it hasn’t been easy. There have been tough, tough games. Tough ones with Oakwood and some close ones with Valley View and Eaton.
“But when we walk on the field we expect it and that’s what we strive for – perfection in the league.”
Bellbrook’s last league loss was a 1-0 setback to Valley View on Sept. 30, 2004. It’s one of the few times the Eagles have been unable to fend off an opponents best shot.
“You’re prepared for it,” Kaffenberger said. “You get a big target after so many years and you know it’s coming.”
The loss to Valley View is just one of two SWBL losses Bellbrook has been dealt since 1992. Over that stretch the Eagles have gone 123-2-7 against league foes.
“The No. 1 goal,” Luse said, “is to win league. Two is to win the district and so on right up the ladder.”
It’s that postseason climb lately that has become treacherous.
Despite its regular season success, Bellbrook is just one of many capable teams in what is arguably the toughest Division II district in Ohio. In addition to the Eagles, the Dayton No. 1 District is home to Carroll, Alter and Chaminade-Julienne.
Bellbrook’s last district title came in 1999. It has three overall.
“You’ve got us and Alter and C-J and Carroll and that’s just to get out of the district semis,” Luse said. “One of them always seems to get to the state semifinals and I think that says a lot about soccer in the Dayton area.”
Last year Alter finished state runner-up. The previous three years Carroll made the state semifinals.
“It’s brutal,” Kaffenberger said. “(Alter and Carroll) are both so good every year. They’re perineal champions. It’s tough.”
Despite the opening loss to Alter, Bellbrook might have the best D-II team in Southwest Ohio.
The Eagles return eight starters from last year, including the top three scorers. Bellbrook also has 10 seniors.
Kaffenberger is one of the stars.
The reigning SWBL Southwest Division Player of the Year, Kaffenberger was first team Miami Valley Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association All-Area last year. He excels as a sweeper.
“Defensively he’s the leader and the one we depend on,” Luse said. “He is very patient. He never gets nervous. He has a calming effect on us.”
Those players that make opposing defenses nervous are senior striker David Garrigan and junior striker Matt Bly. The duo each scored 17 goals and had seven assists a year ago. Bly was named first team MVSSCA All-Area, while Garrigan was second team MVSSCA South.
Sophomore midfielder Chris Lynch was the team’s third leading scorer with 8 goals and 5 assists.
Other key contributors are seniors Matt Sadler (defender), Chris Owen (defensive midfielder) and Josh Kallas (midfielder).
Overall the Eagles have over 50 kids out and have added a reserve “B” team this year. Two sophomores and a freshman play varsity.
As for how long Bellbrook is playing in the postseason this fall – that remains an unkown.
“We’ve only had a taste of it,” Luse said. “We’ve been to the state semis once (in 1993) and it would be nice to get back there. And this team – if they stay injury free – maybe they’ll make a run.
“Hopefully the playing field has been leveled a little and the table is set for us this year.”
Said Kaffenberger: “It could be special.”
Thanks to Thursday’s victory it already is.