‘More to achieve’ for top-ranked, unbeaten Badin

Rams face Wapakoneta in the Division III regional semifinals on Friday night

Credit: David A. Moodie

Credit: David A. Moodie

Badin High School football coach Nick Yordy has tried to avoid talking about last year’s team that went to a state final, but in thinking of what makes this year’s squad special, it’s hard not to reflect a bit on the past.

The Rams graduated a large senior class, including both of the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed Offensive Player of the Year winners, a defensive player of the year and 12 other all-league honorees.

Despite having all those holes to fill, Badin hasn’t skipped a beat. A young group of up-and-comers stepped in and kept the team playing at a high level through a perfect regular season and two dominant playoff victories.

The top-ranked, top-seeded Rams (12-0) face No. 4 Wapakoneta (11-1) on Friday in the Division III, Region 12 semifinals at Trotwood Madison High School. The Rams are among the three area teams still alive, joined by Lakota West and Edgewood. The Firebirds face Elder in the D-I, Region 4 semis, while the Cougars face Anderson in D-II, Region 8.

“Last year was a great year, but we don’t harp on it a lot,” Yordy said. “We brought it up at the beginning of the year and kind of moved on. We have a lot of juniors making an impact. It’s not as big of a senior class as we had last year, but these guys took it upon themselves to step up and make their mark. To sit here and be playing Week 13, they’ve obviously done a good job of that, but we can’t get too comfortable. There is still more to achieve.”

Junior quarterback Alex Ritzie, in his first year as a full-time starter, said it helped him that he got an early taste of playing in big games at the varsity level when he was thrust into the job late last year. Landyn Vidourek had been injured in the regional final with Bellbrook leading 9-0, but Ritzie stepped in and helped lead the offense in an impressive 21-9 comeback win.

Ritzie started both the state semifinal and final, as Badin beat Granville in its first Final Four appearance since 1998 but lost to Chardon, 21-14, in the Division III championship. This season he has thrown for 1,968 yards and 24 touchdowns with one interception, including completing all 11 of his passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-14 win over New Richmond last week.

“I got to feel what it’s like playing on varsity in big games in the playoffs, and that helped me calm down knowing I’ve been in this situation before and I’ve gotten that experience,” Ritzie said. “Guys really helped me out to keep going last year coming in, and it’s been the same thing this year.”

Standout receiver Braedyn Moore returned, but Carter Russo (1,113 yards rushing) took over as the team’s new feature back, and four new starting linemen stepped in to help keep the offense churning. The defense picked up right where it left off last year with a strong group of front making things especially difficult on opposing offenses. Badin has allowed just 8.0 points per game.

Ritzie said the team is hungry to win a title this year after walking “away with a sour feeling” last year.

“I’ve been around these guys a long time and know what we are capable of,” Ritzie said. “We put our best into it every week. Last year was a great experience, but now it’s not just get there and it’s good. It’s ‘let’s do something.’”

The Rams are focused on getting past Wapakoneta first, though. The Redskins opened the season with a 21-7 loss to Marion Local but have rattled off 11 straight wins since then, including a 29-0 win over Bellbrook last week.

Wapakoneta features Western Buckeye League Kicker of the Year Kyle Beach, Defensive Lineman of the Year Mikey Lee and Defensive Back of the Year Connor Meckstroth, and the Redskins are led by first-team running back Jace Knous.

“Their defense is coached very well,” Yordy said. “They make you drive the ball, so you have to be able to sustain drives. They are a running team but they can throw too, so they are balanced and we have to be able to stop the run but be prepared for the pass. Special teams, they have a very good kicker. He’s impressive on film, so field position will come into play and we have to be able to execute in all three of those phases.”

Ritzie said Badin has “a lot of confidence” going into this week after a nearly perfect first half last week, but the Rams know every opponent at this stage is going to be tough.

“We have a lot of stuff clicking, but we know Wapakoneta is a good defense, good team,” Ritzie said. “It’s going to be a tough battle, so we have to focus on them right now.”

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