The offseason is a long stretch, so when the Badin High School football team hit the field Friday night, it was absolutely time to get after it.
“Coach (Nick) Yordy has been preparing us for months and months, ever since last February,” said Rams junior Alex DeLong, a halfback and safety. “Pregame, we were all pumped up. There was no messing around. We were just ready to kick some butt.”
Badin looked the part of a hungry team and soared to a 34-0 lead late in the first half, then settled for a season-opening 41-20 road victory over Butler County rival Ross before a packed house at Robinson Field.
FRIDAY NIGHT COVERAGE
Davon Starks tallied three touchdowns and DeLong had two on a pair of long passes from Zach Switzer. All five of those scores came in the first 21 minutes.
“The first half was great,” said Yordy, starting his second season at the BHS helm. “We knew Ross was a lot better offensively this year, and I think that showed in the second half. We’ve got a lot of guys going both ways and kind of got worn down … we had a lot of guys cramping. But they battled through it.
“We just wanted to get through that first game and get out of here with a victory, and we did that. So we’re going home happy tonight.”
Sophomore Bobby Young provided a big-time defensive highlight in his varsity debut for Badin, grabbing a pitch by Ross quarterback C.J. Boze and taking it 25 yards the other way for a touchdown in the fourth period.
Young, who was beaten out by Switzer for the quarterback job, started at outside linebacker.
“The whole offseason I’ve been working hard trying to get out here and make a varsity start,” Young said. “My whole family went through Badin, and I wanted to come out here as soon as I could and play varsity football and make them proud. They’ve supported me all my life trying to get here, so I got past the nerves and did it for them.”
It wasn’t a great night for Ross, but it wasn’t a disaster either. The host Rams have still never beaten Hamilton Catholic/Badin in 14 tries dating back to 1959, yet showed some fortitude after a terrible start and rushed for 245 yards in their triple-option offense.
Boze, a sophomore making his first varsity appearance, ran 31 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. He also hit Dylan Caldwell for a 13-yard TD on the last play of the first half to give Ross a boost heading into the last two periods. Ethan Hall added a late scoring run for the hosts.
“You saw some of our young pups tonight that had some deer-in-the-headlight eyes,” second-year Ross coach Kenyon Commins said. “Our kids showed some life, they could’ve rolled over, but I think you have to give a lot of credit to Badin.
“Those guys were prepared. They played really, really well. They knew their assignments defensively, and their offensive scheme to attack us on the edge was good.”
Boze worked through some early jitters — “It was scary at first,” he admitted — and didn’t let the 34-0 deficit get him down.
“There’s not much to lose, so I just had to give it my all and keep pushing,” Boze said. “I think it hit us in the second half that we had to kick it up because they were a better team than we thought.
“We have to come out in the next game and play like we did in the second half tonight. I’m kind of disappointed about this, but I feel good at the same time. I think this team is great, and I definitely think we’re a winning team.”
Ross had no answers for Badin early, with the visitors scoring on their first five possessions. The first three touchdowns were runs by Starks, who finished with 81 yards on 11 carries. The next two TDs were 73- and 52-yard connections between Switzer and DeLong.
Switzer, a 6-foot-5 junior, completed 3-of-5 passes for 145 yards. Starks had a 20-yard reception.
“We’ve got some weapons outside now,” said DeLong, mentioning Josh Hegemann and Marshall Flaig. “It’s going to open up the run game. I think it’s good spread-out football.”
“Zach’s a good quarterback, and we’re expecting a lot of big things out of him,” Yordy said. “I’ve always said we want to run the ball, but we’re going to take what the defense gives us. If we get a matchup we like in the passing game, I think we can take advantage of it.”
DeLong gained 64 yards on 10 rushes for Badin, which never could get to the 30-point second-half margin that would’ve started the running clock.
The Ross touchdown on the final play of the opening half ended a 77-yard drive that lasted just over three minutes. It was 34-6 at the break.
Boze’s 22-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter made it 34-13. Badin wasn’t exactly on the verge of losing, but Young’s touchdown pretty much sealed the deal with 6:14 left.
“Huge play by Bobby Young,” Yordy said. “I think they really stole momentum from us right before the half, and we had to get it back.”
Young said he wasn’t thinking about ending up with the ball as the play unfolded.
“You’re just thinking about getting your assignment and making a tackle,” Young said. “My job was just to attack the pitch. He just pitched it late, and I jumped in front of it and ran for a touhdown. I was there at the right time.
“I actually told my dad last night that I was going to intercept a pitch and run it for a touchdown, so it was ironic that it happened. If you get a defensive touchdown, you know it doesn’t happen a lot. I loved it. It was a great feeling.”
Young noted that he’s been playing multiple positions on both sides of the ball throughout the preseason. Quarterback may be the marquee spot, but Young said he has no problem with Switzer being there.
“He’s a great quarterback, so I wasn’t upset with that. He earned that position,” Young said. “I’m on defense, so I’m not crying. I’ve got my spot as a sophomore. I’m just grateful for that.”
Evan Schlensker paced Badin with nine total tackles. Teammate Grayson Taylor collected four tackles for loss.
Caldwell (eight carries, 59 yards) and Hall (eight carries, 49 yards) had some quality runs for Ross, which played without standout defensive back Ryan Price (ankle injury).
Boze was 2-of-9 for 28 yards through the air.
“You think back to last year after Badin, I think we were already on quarterback No. 3,” Commins said. “Playing quarterback in our offense is tough mentally and physically, so I’m very proud of C.J. He’s going to be awfully fun to watch in the next few years, and he’s a good young man. He’s just as good off the field as he is on it. That sophomore class is a good class for us.”
Commins said his intention is to keep playing Badin year after year.
“I’m not getting out of the game,” he said. “We want to elevate where we are. We have to get to a level where we want to compete all the time. That’s why I love this game. Badin’s well-coached, they’re disciplined kids, and it’s a hard-nosed game. It gets a little chippy out there at times, but that’s the nature of the rivalry.”
Both teams return to action next Friday. Ross travels to Monroe, while Badin hosts Talawanda at Hamilton.
B: Davon Starks 15 run (Luke VanSteenkiste kick)
B: Starks 8 run (VanSteenkiste kick)
B: Starks 7 run (VanSteenkiste kick)
B: Alex DeLong 73 pass from Zach Switzer (VanSteenkiste kick)
B: DeLong 52 pass from Switzer (Kick failed)
R: Dylan Caldwell 13 pass from C.J. Boze (Run failed)
R: Boze 22 run (L.J. Neumaier kick)
B: Bobby Young 25 fumble return (VanSteenkiste kick)
R: Ethan Hall 4 run (Neumaier kick)