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Prep football: Resurgent Talawanda taking aim at local rival Badin

A two-game winning streak may be modest by most standards, but it’s a big deal for Talawanda High School’s football team.

“Somebody told me it’s not a streak until you get to three, but we’ll take it,” Braves coach J.D. Vonderheide said. “We’re building some momentum. That’s the important thing.”

Talawanda avoided a winless season in 2017 by earning a 10-8 victory in the finale against Ross, then opened up this year by handling Preble Shawnee 34-12 last week.

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The last time the Braves won two in a row? They won five straight to end the regular season in 2014.

Before the Shawnee win, Talawanda had taken three straight Game 1 beatings from Madison by a 116-6 margin.

“We’re breathing some different air than we have the last three years coming off games against Madison,” Vonderheide said. “Being 1-0 creates a little bit different attitude. A lot of good things came from Friday night, but we’ve also got a lot to clean up.”

Vonderheide said the Braves have a big challenge coming up Friday when they travel to Hamilton’s Virgil Schwarm Stadium to meet Badin, a 41-20 winner over Ross last week.

History has not been kind to Talawanda in its series with Hamilton Catholic/Badin. The Rams lead 21-3 and haven’t lost to the Braves since 1969.

“We feel there’s probably going to be a little more hype to this game because we’re 1-0 and they’re 1-0,” Vonderheide said. “It’s not easy having to travel to Hamilton and play Badin. Our mind-set is emotions don’t win games … execution does. We can’t let emotions in any way affect what we’re doing on the field.”

Badin’s Davon Starks carries the ball while trailed by teammate Evan Schlensker during their season-opening 41-20 victory at Ross last Friday. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Talawanda is a junior-powered team after starting 15 sophomores last season.

The juniors were a very successful class coming up through the system, so they don’t see any reason why that kind of winning can’t happen at this level.

“We want vengeance against people that doubt us,” said junior Terell Wills, a two-way starter at running back and outside linebacker. “People don’t understand how much talent we have on our team, and it’s going to be crazy. So people can keep doubting us, but we’re coming.”

Badin romped to a 46-0 triumph in Oxford last year, but Rams coach Nick Yordy knows the Braves are a different team in 2018.

“You can definitely see some improvement on film,” Yordy said. “We’re not focused on any winning streaks against certain teams. We’re just focusing on who we have in front of us right now.”

Talawanda piled up 340 rushing yards against Shawnee, led by junior quarterback Adam Crank (20 carries, 139 yards, two TDs) and Wills (16 carries, 129 yards, two TDs).

In the not-so-good department, the Braves were whistled for 17 penalties.

“They were very, very correctable mistakes, nothing glaring,” Vonderheide said. “We may have played fairly sloppy at times, but we were able to overcome our mistakes and capitalize on some of theirs.”

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The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Wills was a wide receiver last year, but is already showing an ability to shine as a running back. Wills and senior Tyler Prater move in and out of the running back and receiver positions in an effort to keep defenders guessing.

“Terell has blossomed a little bit. He’s a fairly imposing kid with the ball in his hands,” Vonderheide said. “He’s now starting to learn how to use that body that the good Lord has given him.”

Wills is a Dayton native who moved around quite a bit before coming to Oxford. He said he hasn’t played running back since his middle-school days in Greenville.

“I love the switch because I like to hit people,” Wills said. “It’s going to be hard to contain me. I feel like I can excel at any position that I play in.”

Said Yordy, “You see him on tape and he definitely stands out. They’ve also got some big boys up front that move pretty well.”

Vonderheide was pleased with the play of his defensive front — primarily Christopher Richardson, Andrew Marcum, Nathan Fox and Andrew Miller — against Shawnee. The THS coach said that group will need to be strong against a Badin squad that prefers to keep the ball on the ground.

“This is my fourth year playing Badin, and I would say this is the best matchup on paper that we’ve had,” Vonderheide said. “We feel like we match up really well with these guys.”

He will actually be in attendance at Friday’s game, something that wasn’t a given with his wife Andrea about to give birth to their fourth child. But a boy arrived early Tuesday morning, so Vonderheide is set for Friday.

Like Talawanda, the Rams have multiple offensive weapons and showed some of them against Ross. Halfbacks Davon Starks and Alex DeLong combined for five touchdowns, and quarterback Zach Switzer was 3-of-5 for 145 yards and two TDs (both to DeLong).

Badin’s biggest concern is playing a lot of guys both ways. The Rams wore down a bit in the second half last Friday after taking a 34-0 lead.

“The big thing we’ve talked about this year is being able to finish off games. To do that, you have to be in shape physically and mentally,” Yordy said. “Maybe it was a little bit of an eye-opener in that second half against Ross. But we addressed it, and we learned from it.”

Friday’s game

What: Talawanda (1-0) vs. Badin (1-0) at Hamilton, 7 p.m.

Where: Virgil Schwarm Stadium, 1165 Eaton Ave., Hamilton

Series: Badin leads 21-3 and won 46-0 last year

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