HAMILTON — Luke Tabler wants his last Badin High School football season to include a trip to the Division III, Region 12 playoffs.
He’s also sick of losing to the McNicholas Rockets.
The senior cornerback is hoping to take care of both situations Friday night when the Rams host McNicholas in a regular-season finale at Hamilton’s Virgil Schwarm Stadium.
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“That’s a big, bad taste we have,” Tabler said of Badin’s six-game losing streak against the Rockets. “We’re due to beat McNick. The vibes in the locker room are really great. We are ready to win this game. Our confidence is the highest it’s been all year.”
The Rams have already secured the Greater Catholic League Coed Central Division championship, ending McNick’s six-year run as a division winner. Badin is 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the GCLC, while the Rockets are an uncharacteristic 1-8, 0-6.
Last week’s 38-21 victory over Chaminade Julienne was a significant step toward the playoffs, but according to www.joeeitel.com, Badin has not locked up a spot.
Win or lose, the Rams are guaranteed to finish in the top nine in the region. The top eight advance to the postseason.
After Thursday night’s games, Badin controls its own destiny and can clinch a berth with a victory. Its clearest path to the playoffs with a defeat would be a loss by 5-4 Mount Healthy (which plays 7-2 Edgewood) or 6-3 Piqua (which plays 8-1 Troy).
“We’re not focusing on any of that,” Rams coach Nick Yordy said. “Our only goal is to go out there and play well against McNick. Whatever happens after that, we’ll deal with it.”
Badin’s last win over the Rockets was a 31-8 decision in 2011. McNick went 2-8 that year and hasn’t been 1-9 since 1995.
Rockets coach Mike Orlando said his team’s season has been a perfect storm of injuries, inexperience and erratic execution.
“Sometimes it falls on you this way,” Orlando said. “It’s not something we’re used to, but outside of Alter, I guess everybody has these years. I’m really proud of the way the guys responded. It hasn’t showed up in the wins, but they did put the effort in. The seniors really kept this thing together.
“Even to this very week, our guys have showed up and practiced their tails off. Over this stretch of losing seven games in a row, we’ve had some of our best practices in quite some time.
“We came into this year with some questions. It sounds crazy now, but I thought if we got the answers we were hoping for, we would contend to be a playoff team and hopefully win another GCL Central. But some of those questions weren’t answered the way we wanted them to be answered.”
McNick has managed just 372 rushing yards all season and is relying on the arm of sophomore quarterback Clay Badylak, who is 121-of-242 for 1,262 yards and four touchdowns. He’s been picked off 12 times.
“We’ve been forced to put the ball in the air a lot. Too much, to be quite honest,” Orlando said. “We haven’t been able to run the ball effectively all year. If you play in this league, you have to be able to run the football. If you don’t, you’re going to be exposed and be on the wrong side of things.”
Tabler and junior Marshall Flaig are the Rams’ cornerbacks, and senior Davon Starks is the safety. They expect to be challenged by the Rockets’ aerial attack.
“I’m excited. I hope they throw it a lot,” Tabler said. “They don’t look like a 1-8 team to me on film. We’re not going out and playing them like they’re a 1-8 team. We’re going out and playing like them like they’re 9-0 and the best team we’ve faced. That has to be our mentality.”
“We’re preparing for a GCL battle, and I think it’ll happen Friday night,” Yordy said. “McNick is a dangerous team. When you’re throwing the ball that much, if you make a mistake here or there, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Badin is averaging 207.7 yards per game on the ground, and Starks is about to crack the 1,000-yard mark this year. He’s got 946 yards and 11 touchdowns on 169 carries.
“They know what type of team they want to be, and the things they do, they do very well,” Orlando said. “We’re going to have to be consistent and play four quarters to have a chance. They’re a playoff team and deservedly so.”
This will be Senior Night for the Rams. Their roster on the GCL website includes 16 seniors.
What: McNicholas (1-8, 0-6 GCLC Central) vs. Badin (6-3, 4-2 GCLC Central) at Hamilton, 7 p.m.
Where: Virgil Schwarm Stadium, 1165 Eaton Ave., Hamilton
Series: Hamilton Catholic/Badin leads 34-17-1, but McNicholas has won the last six meetings, including 42-20 in 2017