“Oh my God,” said Cheek, a senior wide receiver. “This is pretty surreal. I appreciate my coaches for trusting me. I love them. I love this team. It was an awesome moment. I’m so glad. Players make plays — and I tried to make some plays.”
The top-ranked Rams move on to face No. 6 Celina next Friday in the regional finals at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined. Celina beat Tippecanoe 27-13.
“Honestly, it’s giving all of us a heart attack on the sidelines,” said Ritzie, who threw for 188 yards with 141 of them coming in the second half. “We will take any win we can get coming against a high-quality opponent over there.
“Cheek took over this game late. It really helped us. The defense played great all night. We were really just feeding off the defense at the end. We had to pick them up. They really had our back all night, so we had to do something else as an offensive group.”
The Rams (13-0) didn’t lead until the final drive and struggled to put points on the board early on because of a stiff Redskins (10-3) defense.
Badin turned the ball over twice in the first half — two Ritzie interceptions — and Wapakoneta was able to capitalize on one of the turnovers when Reece Schnarre scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 3:45 left in the second quarter.
Badin kicker Nick Warner missed three field attempts and Kyle Beach booted a 49-yard field goal to put Wapakoneta on top 10-0 with 1:23 left in the third quarter.
But the Rams’ defense — which had only allowed 10.7 points a game this season — pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter, and they used that to their advantage offensively down the stretch.
The Rams recovered two fumbles, including one that led to Ritzie’s first touchdown pass to Austin Buckle from 10 yards out that cut the Wapakoneta lead to 10-7 with 3:28 left.
Badin forced a three-and-out and regained possession at its own 35-yard line following a Wapakoneta punt with 1:29 remaining.
Ritzie was 7 of 9 passing for 65 yards on the final drive that was capped off on Cheek’s game-clinching TD catch.
“We’ve got to stop doing that,” Badin coach Nick Yordy said. “We’ve got to stop putting ourselves in that kind of a position.
“But we’ve done the two-minute drill with Alter and with McNick. So, in that situation there, our guys weren’t freaked out. And credit to them. That’s just some of the characteristics — they’re composed. I’m proud of them for that. They have a don’t-quit attitude. There were times where it was wavering, but our kids regained it. They got that focus back. It just speaks volumes.”
Badin, the Greater Catholic League Coed champion, knocked off Wapakoneta 16-9 in this exact postseason game a season ago when the Rams took a 13-3 lead into the half and were able to hold on.
The Western Buckeye Conference champion Redskins were winners of 10 straight heading into Friday night.
“I’m so proud of them — just with the adversity we faced tonight and the way we competed for 48 minutes,” said Wapakoneta coach Travis Moyer, who noted that his program sustained a couple key injuries down the stretch. “I coached for 23 years, and the way our kids represented our school district and our community tonight, I couldn’t be more proud. They left everything they had on the field. Obviously, we came up short. Obviously, we fought to the bitter end. I’m just really, really proud of our entire program right now.”
Badin, which is 48-3 in the last four seasons, played in its sixth consecutive regional semifinal and will play in its third straight regional final next Friday. Badin fell to Tippecanoe in last year’s regional final on a late field goal and lost to Chardon 21-14 in the 2021 state final.