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Prep football: Badin, Ross set to open season with Butler County clash

Kenyon Commins sees one bright side to his Ross High School football program’s one-sided history with Badin.

He doesn’t think his players know or care much about it.

“The longer in the tooth you are, the more you remember it,” Commins said. “Kids today are so caught up in the now. They’re an instant gratification society. I really don’t think I could talk to a senior and say, ‘Hey, do you remember when Badin beat Ross in 1995?’ They’d have no idea.

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“Do I think they remember last year? Absolutely. But as far as the whole thing goes, I think they’re just worried about their time here and where it goes from here.”

The rivalry was renewed for the first time since 2010 last year, with Badin winning 36-6 at Hamilton’s Virgil Schwarm Stadium. That gave Badin/Hamilton Catholic a 13-0 advantage in the series, which began in 1959.

Butler County’s Rams will square off in a 2018 season opener Friday night at Robinson Field in Ross Township.

“I’m excited to see where we’re at,” Badin coach Nick Yordy said. “Watching Ross on film, they’re obviously a lot better. So we’ve got to match that improvement and go out and perform.”

Yordy played for Terry Malone and is a big believer in the historic side of Badin football. He clearly does not want the winning streak against Ross to end on his watch.

Badin High School senior Grayson Taylor talks about the Rams football team heading into Friday night’s season opener at Ross.

“One of the biggest things I’ve tried to do since I’ve been here is to make these guys understand some of the history and tradition that’s here at Badin and try to revive that a little bit,” Yordy said. “I want them to understand who they’re playing for in regard to Badin High School.”

Badin senior Grayson Taylor, a two-way end, has gotten the message.

“As Yordy instills in us, we’re trying to return to dominance,” Taylor said. “When I’m out in public, I say, ‘I’m a football player for the Badin Rams.’ They’re like, ‘Wow, that field up there (behind the school) is like sacred ground. Many legendary teams have gone before you.’

“I feel like their legacy has always been a part of us. We need to live up to that expectation. We can’t just die down and not be who the Rams are supposed to be every year.”

Ross is just 3-17 over the last two seasons. Commins knew the rebuilding process wouldn’t be easy when he took over last year, but that didn’t make 1-9 any easier to swallow.

He can see brighter days ahead, though. Commins said the weight-room work has been outstanding, and he believes the triple-option offense that sputtered most of last season will be much more effective this year.

“Our offense looks way more prepared. Our defense is looking way better. We look stronger,” Ross senior fullback Dylan Caldwell said. “The school has changed when it comes to football. The atmosphere is a lot better. Coach Commins has made it more positive and more family.”

Players on both sides know each other and take this rivalry seriously.

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Caldwell said Badin is “for sure the No. 1 opponent right now on the schedule.”

“It’s pretty much to show who is the bigger Ram,” Taylor said. “They’re only like five minutes away from us, so I think it’s a good opportunity to show who is the better player.”

The two progams have performed some joint community service the last two years. Last weekend, they gathered at Big Buls Roadhouse and raised more than $3,000 for the Children’s Hospital Psychiatry Division.

“This is a big game, it’s a great game, and football is important. But there’s also life lessons to be learned in this,” Commins said. “I think Coach Yordy and I are reviving this rivalry the right way. This community is much better together than it is apart.”

On the field, both teams will have new starting quarterbacks this year. Sophomore C.J. Boze has won the job at Ross, while junior Zach Switzer has taken over at Badin.

Commins liked the way his offense moved the ball in a scrimmage against Wyoming last week, though the Rams only scored once. He wasn’t as happy about the defensive execution.

Ross High School senior Dylan Caldwell talks about the upcoming season after practice Tuesday at the school.

Multiple wingbacks will rotate through the lineup against Badin, but Caldwell will almost certainly get the most RHS carries. He rushed for 727 yards in 2017.

“Dylan was our offensive player of the year last year … that’s not saying much because we were rather anemic on offense,” Commins said. “But there’s something about Dylan. He runs with an anger and a purpose that you don’t see very often. I always wonder if there’s something inside of him that he’s really, really mad about and he just hasn’t said anything.”

Caldwell, who lists 1,000 yards as an individual goal in 2018, said an improved offensive line should make Ross even better with the triple option.

“I do love this offense,” Caldwell said. “We just can’t fumble like last year.”

An aerial circus likely isn’t in the cards for either team Friday, though the 6-foot-5, 185-pound Switzer gives Badin more of a passing option this year.

“He has that ability to throw the ball, no question,” Yordy said. “We’re going to do what we did last year. We like to see what the defense is giving us, and we’ve got to adjust to that offensively. If they’re giving us a certain play, we’re going to run it.”

Senior Davon Starks is a dynamic presence in the offensive and defensive backfields for Badin. He’s 100 percent now, but physical ailments have ended his last two seasons early.

Sophomore Bobby Young failed to win the BHS quarterback job, but Yordy said he’s had a strong preseason and will add some depth in an outside linebacker/defensive back role.

Taylor said Badin is confident that it can get the best of Ross on both sides of the ball. Caldwell said Ross fans should expect a much more competitive matchup than they saw in last year’s game.

“I think we are so much stronger as a team than last year,” Commins said. “We were shoved around pretty good last year. We were outplayed. We were outcoached. We were outphysicaled. And for a prideful guy like myself and my coaches, that doesn’t sit very well.

“With the tenacity we had in our offseason workouts and the fact that we have 19 seniors, which is the most we’ve had here in quite some time … does that close the gap of 36-6? I don’t know. But I’m interested to find out.”

Friday’s game

What: Badin (5-5 in 2017) at Ross (1-9 in 2017), 7 p.m.

Where: Robinson Field, 3601 Hamilton-Cleves Road, Ross Township

Series: Hamilton Catholic/Badin leads 13-0 and won 36-6 last year

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