Badin football: D-line eager to face potent Tippecanoe offense

Jackson Martin wasn’t sure what to expect this season as the only returning starter on the Badin High School football team’s defensive line, but he says he had faith the hard work the unit put in over the offseason would enable the Rams to reload.

Badin’s defensive line was considered one of the team’s biggest strengths last year en route to a Division III runner-up finish, and the new group has lived up to the standards set in 2021.

The Rams’ rebuilt defensive line has a chance to help lead Badin to a second straight Final Four, as Badin (13-0) meets Tippecanoe (11-1) in the Region 12 championship Friday at Trotwood Madison.

“In the beginning it was just finding chemistry because we lost a lot of experience but gained a lot of talent,” Martin said. “We’re fast, guys want to win so we all work hard, and that made it easier on me. We are young except me and our other defensive end, but the seniors have embraced being leaders and mentors, and the young guys have stepped up. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Martin, a first-team, all-district selection this season, leads the Rams’ defensive front with 57 tackles. 4.0 sacks, 12.0 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and he is joined by fellow defensive end Patrick Ray, who has 24 tackles and 6.0 tackles for loss.

Four others rotate on the defensive line, including Nick Rings, Royce Rachel, Jared Livelsburger and Ethan Kent. The group doesn’t have as many sacks as 2021 and the stats aren’t as flashy overall, but those players combine for 165 tackles and 26 tackles for loss, and coach Nick Yordy said they’ve been an important part of the team’s success this season.

“They saw how those guys played and practiced last year and what they had to do to make themselves good football players, and these guys kind of adopted that role,” Yordy said. “There’s been good competition to earn playing time. We knew we had spots to fill, and they all worked hard because they wanted to be that next guy in. The work ethic has been overall impressive.”

A potent Tippecanoe offense will put Badin’s defense to the test Friday.

The Red Devils are led by dual-threat quarterback Liam Poronsky, who has 1,958 yards passing, 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions to go along with 778 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns. Running back Xavier Jones adds 1,319 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns.

“They have an impressive quarterback and running back so we have to contain those guys as much as possible,” Yordy said. “Their quarterback can throw and run, so those guys (on the defensive line) will have to be aware of the quarterback taking off and scrambling but also a good pass attack. The quarterback has a good arm, good wide receivers, so they have to play one of their best games because those guys are really balanced.”

Martin said he and his teammates on the defensive line love the challenge a dual-threat quarterback like Poronsky provides.

It won’t all be on the defensive line, of course, but Yordy said it all starts up front for Badin.

“Those guys create a new line of scrimmage, eat up blocks and let our linebackers run a little bit -- it’s beneficial to our entire defense,” Yordy said. “When they can get pressure on teams throwing the ball, that helps the secondary as well. Our defense takes a little pride in that up front, just trying to be aggressive and getting to the football and those guys have done a good job.”

Badin last week limited Wapakoneta to 221 yards of offense in a 16-9 decision that put the Rams two wins away from another state final. They have allowed just 8.1 points per game this season, and last week marked the first time since Week 9 they haven’t scored 40 points or more.

Tippecanoe’s defense is athletic and aggressive, so Yordy said the Rams need to match the Red Devils’ intensity but remain disciplined in all three phases to have a chance to continue their unbeaten season.

“They’re going to be flying around, doing what they do in all phases, so we have to be that much more disciplined ourselves when we play a team like this,” Yordy said. “That presents some challenges, so it’s going to be a good matchup.”

Friday’s winner will face the Columbus Bishop Watterson/Bloom-Carroll winner at London’s Bowlus Field on Friday, Nov. 25.

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