High School Football: Despite graduation losses, Badin still seeking growth

The Badin High School football team saw big improvement in Nick Yordy’s second season. It’s going to be tough to match that jump in Year 3, but the Rams still are seeking growth.

Badin went from a 5-5 finish in 2017 to a 7-3 regular-season record, Greater Catholic Co-Ed League Central Division title and second-round playoff appearance last year.

»HS FOOTBALL: Fairfield ready ‘to take the next step’ in 2019

»HS FOOTBALL: Middies looking to keep ‘rolling in right direction’

»HS FOOTBALL: OHSAA adds video replay for state championship games

»HS FOOTBALL: Week 1 schedule

Now, the Rams will try to build on that despite losing a large class to graduation.

“Every coach wants to grow their program from year to year,” Yordy said. “We did that a little faster than expected, but we had a plan in place to coach our kids and make them better and continue their growth. The big thing was we were able to finish games. There were a couple close games where we were able to pull out wins that we couldn’t the first year. Some of those were important for gaining points and making the playoffs. That gave us credibility to what we were doing in practice, and in the offseason they were able to see how they got better and they’re all in now.”

Replacing the bulk of the offensive line will be the biggest obstacle Badin faces in that challenge to meet raised expectations. The Rams lost four or five regular contributors up front and won’t have a ton of experience lining up to protect returning quarterback Zach Switzer, a senior second-year starter who threw for 700 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions during the 2018 regular season.

Among those expected to contribute on the offensive line will be seniors Zach Schuster and Zach Long, juniors Dane Lauer and Conner Young and sophomore Henry Birchwell – most of whom at least got a little playing time last year.

“Experience is a great coach,” Yordy said. “The fact guys have been a part of it and know how things work, that helps. There is definitely a learning curve to it, but they are getting coached up and have ability to get the job done.”

»RELATED: Ross artificial turf field delayed, but will be ready for start of season

The offense as a whole only has five players returning who started games or got significant playing time last year; however, the skill positions look pretty set.

Leading rusher Davon Hartmann-Starks graduated but the Rams can still count on Alex DeLong, who shouldered a lot of the load with Starks. Marshal Flaig is expected to step in as the other main running back. DeLong carried the ball 102 times for 651 yards and four touchdowns last year, while Starks led the way with 1,075 yards and 13 touchdowns on 182 carries en route to earning GCLC Offensive Player of the Year honors.

“Davon was definitely a playmaker, but Alex and Marshal kind of fill that void from having two quality backs,” Yordy said. “They complement each other pretty well. Last year, we had Alex and Davon back there, so Marshal is stepping into the role of Davon and they will be playmakers on the offensive side with Josh Hegemann at wide receiver and Switzer directing the offense. That should help quite a bit.”

Despite the question marks up front, the Rams won’t change the way they expect to play offensively. Yordy hopes they can adjust as needed, though.

»RELATED: Monday’s high school scoreboard

“We are believers that running the football helps win football games, and we will continue to do that but we will do what’s working, so if we have to throw more we will,” Yordy said. “It depends on the flow of the game. Our offense has the ability to do that and we have kids in spots that will allow us to that offensively.”

The defense also lost players up front but seven starters or partial starters return, led by senior linebacker Evan Schlensker, who was the GCLC Defensive Player of the Year.

Other players expected to be key contributors are senior Kegen Gormley and juniors Michael Schweinefuss and David Schweinefuss at linebacker, Flaig, Hegemann and DeLong at cornerback and Bobby Young at safety.

“We want to play fast and get to the football, understand responsibilities, and if we are doing those things, hopefully some of that experience pays off,” Yordy said.

Winning a GCLC title will be more difficult this year, as there will be only one division with Purcell Marian and Roger Bacon leaving the league. Badin still has those two schools on the schedule but they won’t count in the standings.

“Expectations from the player standpoint is always high and expectations are high for us as well,” Yordy said. “We just have to keep progressing as a program overall. That’s our goal every year.”

Badin opens the season Friday, Aug. 30, against Ross at Hamilton High School’s Virgil Schwarm Stadium.

About the Author