Badin High School football coach Nick Yordy said the Rams are feeling the support of the students and staff, the local community and alumni this week as they prepare for the program’s first state final since winning its only title in 1990.
Players are enjoying the extra bit of attention at school – much deserved as only 13 other teams are left playing in Ohio finals this weekend -- but it’s all business come practice time.
The Rams (14-0) face the task of trying to knock off the defending state champion when they meet Chardon (15-0) in the Division III state championship Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The Hilltoppers are riding a 27-game winning streak.
“They are a good football team, well coached,” Yordy said Tuesday. “Getting back there two years in a row is a testament to them. We obviously communicated those things to our team. We are aware they have an impressive winning streak, they’re the defending champs, but we think we have a pretty good football team too.”
Even as the defending champion, Chardon surprised teams on its path back to Canton. The Hilltoppers returned just two starters on offense and three on defense, but the lack of outside expectations seemed to be something that fueled their success this season.
Chardon rebuilt and beat quality opponents en route to the state final, including beating eight opponents with eight wins or more.
“It’s a remarkable season for our kids because we lost so many to graduation,” Chardon coach Mitch Hewitt said on a conference call with media Tuesday. “We lost 26 really good seniors, a lot of all-Ohio players and we didn’t return many, as most people know by this point, and we had a lot of question marks. We returned one tight end and everyone else on the offensive line was brand new, we didn’t return a quarterback, our backfield was pretty much all new with the exception of Sean Carr. On the defensive side of the ball, we had three essential starters back, so I think that’s been like sort of the story and the theme is that I think this was a class that sort of left, ‘Hey we got our ring last year and then we can take a year off and rebuild,’ and I think they were somewhat offended by that and it’s just propelled us to this point in the season.”
Among the top returners were tight end/defensive end Alex McDonald and wide receiver/safety Nathanael Sulka, both committed to Youngstown State for football. Linebacker Christian Hall has committed to Alcorn State for baseball.
Quarterback Alex Henry (1,258 yards rushing, 779 yards passing) and Carr (1,132 yards rushing) lead the Hilltoppers’ pistol Wing-T offense. Chardon has been running a form of the Wing-T since 1980, and Hewitt, a 1988 graduate of the program, is the third head coach to keep it going while putting his own spin on it.
Carr set the program’s all-time postseason scoring record at 104 points when he scored four touchdowns last week against West Holmes. However, Yordy is most concerned about containing Henry, who he said “makes the offense go.” Badin hasn’t faced an offense like Chardon’s since Edgewood last year.
“It’s a little unique, and I think what also makes it really unique is the fact that they have a really good quarterback that’s kind of running the show back there,” Yordy said. “They like to use him ... quite a bit, they like to run him a lot, and he’s a big strong kid, physical runner, gets downhill a lot. So we’re gonna have our hands full with that, there’s no doubt.”
Hewitt sees this as a meeting of two evenly-matched and similar teams. Both rely heavily on the running game, both bring physical, aggressive defenses, and it could be an interesting battle in the trenches.
Hewitt called Badin’s front four on defense “terrifying” and noted the offensive line doesn’t get “enough credit because there’s so much talent on that team,” but Chardon prides itself on preparing players for exactly those kinds of challenges.
“Culture is an overused word, but I think it’s sharp and we’re blessed to have it,” Hewitt said. “… We’ve got coaches that have been born and bred from Chardon, our OC and DC are both Chardon grads. We’ve got alumni coaching, and our offseason is -- everyone takes pride in their offseason but we’d like to think that ours is still a little bit unique. ... We’ll do things that probably in five years will have us all fired, but for the time being, we hang our hat on that stuff and our kids embrace it. And our parents, we say this all the time, when our parents become soft, Chardon football will die a slow death. We’ve got parents that support it, and we’re still a pretty strong community in that regard, but it’s for sure a culture.”
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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