Jack Walsh went into last offseason feeling like he could have done more for the Badin High School football team. His junior year, impacted by pandemic restrictions, wasn’t what anyone pictured, so he did everything he could in the weight room and summer workouts to make sure 2021 would be better.
Badin reaped the benefits.
Walsh came back ready to help lead the Rams to what he hoped would be a special season, and 16 weeks into it, they are among the last teams standing. Badin (14-0) plays defending champion Chardon (15-0) in the Division III state final Friday in Canton, and Walsh, the school’s all-time single-season rushing leader, has been the catalyst to the team’s success.
“Just going into it, after last year I knew I wanted to make the most of it, so I took weightlifting seriously and offseason training,” Walsh said. “I took it all seriously and did as much as I could. I definitely had high hopes for this season, and it’s been awesome to be a part of it.”
With senior quarterback Landyn Vidourek out with a fractured hand, Walsh has become an even bogger part of Badin’s offense the past two weeks and it’s no secret Chardon will be focusing its attention on him. For good reason.
After rushing for 320 yards and four touchdowns through a 5-0 regular season last year, Walsh nearly matched that total in the first two games of this season. He broke Alex DeLong’s 2019 single-season record of 1,513 yards rushing in the regional final win over Bellbrook two weeks ago and enters Friday with 1,803 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns on 272 carries.
“He’s a versatile guy,” Badin coach Nick Yordy said of Walsh. “He can run, he can block, does anything we ask him to do with no questions asked. You ask him to do something, he’s going to do it and we relied on him a lot here recently. And I think at this point in the season, in order for a team to be successful, you’ve got to be able to run the ball, and we’re gonna rely on him again.
“Between him and Landyn (up until his regional final injury), they’re the reasons we are at this point right now. So we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Yordy left the door open for Vidourek, a University of Cincinnati baseball recruit, to potentially have a role Friday if he’s cleared to play after a visit to the hand specialist.
Sophomore Alex Ritzie has managed the offense well in Vidourek’s absence, and Walsh has embraced the opportunity to put the Rams on his back when needed.
“Landyn and I shared the load a lot carrying the ball, so when he went down I took over some of the runs with Wildcat, but Ritzie stepped up and the O-line got progressively better, so it’s not just on me,” Walsh said. “I maybe have a little more responsibility, but Ritzie has done well and the O-line and skill guys blocking for me deserve all the credit.”
While Yordy also credited the offensive line, he said Walsh has earned every yard. Once a hole opens up, he bursts through and is hard to bring down. Badin’s offensive line features left tackle Max Kramer, left guard Zach Estrellado, center Henry Birchwell, right guard Aiden Ostendorf, right tackle Brennan Tuley and tight end Wil Poehner.
Yordy called Walsh one of the hardest working players on the team and one of the strongest, as well, a nod to the time he put into the weight room during the offseason.
“He’s a great kid,” Yordy said. “He comes from a great family. His brother was the starting quarterback here about five or six years ago and went to the Naval Academy, and that’s just the type of hard-working family he comes from. He worked hard and had a great offseason and that’s shown. He’s an all-around great young man, bright kid, and he’s a team captain as voted by his teammates, so that speaks volumes to the type of player he is as well.”
Walsh got off to a good start to the season but really elevated his game in an Oct. 1 win over Alter when he rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He had just one game under 100 yards after that, a 97-yard effort in the second round of the playoffs. He had five touchdownagainst McNicholas to help Badin win the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed title.
In last week’s 14-0 win over Granville, he finished with 236 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 43 carries in Ritzie’s first start at quarterback.
“That (Alter) game was the game where we knew we had stuff figured out with blocking scheme, and the game plan was working well that game,” Walsh recalled. “We knew we had the guys to be successful running the ball, we were just waiting for it to click and that was the game where it happened to click.”
Yordy said establishing the running game will be important Friday against Chardon, a team that has put emphasis on being aggressive and winning the battles in the trenches.
Walsh acknowledged Chardon’s front seven will be a challenge, but said he’s more confident in his lead blockers being up to the test.
“We’re excited,” Walsh said. “We’re treating it like another week, not letting our heads get too big, but it’s our last game as seniors and we’re going to lay it all on the line.”
Who: Badin vs. Chardon
What: Division III State Championship Game
When: 3 p.m.
Where: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton
TV: Spectrum News 1
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