Prep football: Starks savoring every healthy moment for Badin

Badin’s Davon Starks (1) takes a handoff from quarterback Zach Switzer (10) during last Friday’s 48-6 win over McNicholas at Virgil Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY TERRI ADAMS

caption arrowCaption
Badin’s Davon Starks (1) takes a handoff from quarterback Zach Switzer (10) during last Friday’s 48-6 win over McNicholas at Virgil Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY TERRI ADAMS

Davon Starks has found himself in uniform and ready to play every game this season for Badin High School’s football team.

He does not take that for granted, and it’s easy to understand why. The senior halfback/safety didn’t finish any of his first three seasons with the Rams.

“Definitely staying healthy. That was my No. 1 goal,” Starks said. “Knock on wood, I’ve been able to do that.”

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Starks is a member of Badin’s 1,000-yard club as a running back and has moved into eighth place on the Rams’ all-time scoring list with 180 points.

Badin (7-3) will make its first postseason appearance since 2015 on Friday night when it travels to Vandalia Butler (6-4) for a Division III, Region 12 quarterfinal.

“It’s exciting for sure,” Starks said. “We can’t have any distractions. It’s getting back to business.”

He’s rushed for 1,075 yards and 13 touchdowns on 181 carries this year. That yardage total is No. 5 among the single-season leaders since Badin opened its doors in the fall of 1966.

Rams coach Nick Yordy said Starks is a big-play guy who leads by example.

“He’s a great kid with a great attitude and hard worker,” Yordy said. “He’s the type of kid that goes out and tries to get better every day, which is the message we’re trying to send to these kids. I’m glad he’s stayed healthy. I think that’s a testament to how he’s worked this offseason.”

Starks is approaching the 2,000-yard plateau for his career (he’s at 1,839). What’s amazing is that he’s done it in a limited amount of time.

Starks, who broke his ankle in the final game of his freshman season, only played in three varsity games as a sophomore in 2016. His last action of the season was Week 3 at Edgewood.

What happened during that game was serious, though not altogether clear to Starks.

“It’s still kind of blurry when I think about it,” he said. “There were some problems going on inside my brain that wasn’t getting enough air, along with my heart. I wasn’t all the way there when it happened, so they had to get me out of there.

caption arrowCaption
Badin senior Davon Starks

Badin senior Davon Starks

caption arrowCaption
Badin senior Davon Starks

“There’s kind of like a gap in my memory. There’s certain parts that come back here and there, but other than that, it’s kind of gone. From what I’ve heard, I was on the field and they had to get me off, and apparently I tried to walk back on without my helmet.

“I think I had a concussion the game before, and then I guess getting hit again sparked or triggered something inside. It kind of went downhill from there.”

There was talk that his athletic career might be over. As it turned out, his condition didn’t require medication or specific procedures. What it really needed was time, and Starks was medically cleared to return the following summer.

“I kind of prepared for the worst if sports did end, but I got lucky,” he said. “I made sure I wasn’t pushing myself too much. Once I started working out again, I started slow and got progressively harder to make sure everything was OK. Then we were good to go.”

Starks averaged 7 yards per carry and ran for nine touchdowns in 2017, but his season ended in Week 8 during a game against Alter. This time, it was a broken collarbone.

“I ran a route, dove for a ball, and it snapped when I hit the ground,” Starks said. “I had to have surgery a few days later. A plate and six screws, which are still in there now.”

He worked hard in the offseason and was ready when the 2018 campaign arrived. Starks said he got tired of “getting thrown around like a rag doll,” so he committed himself to lifting weights and has gained about 25 pounds since his sophomore year.

Starks spent his early years in Fishers, Ind., before moving to Fairfield and spending several years as a student in the Fairfield City School District. He opted to come to Badin as a freshman.

“My parents were looking for a little bit better environment for me, a place with smaller classes to make sure I was getting my schoolwork done,” Starks said. “That’s what it ended up being. I’ve had a lot of great teachers making sure I got my stuff done. There’s been lots of good learning going on.

“It’s a little different going into a place you don’t know anything about, but once you start talking to people and meeting people, it all comes together. It was a good switch for me, no regrets at all.”

Heading into the playoffs, Starks has rushed for 100-plus yards in six of his last seven games. He is always quick to credit his backfield mates — senior Ethan Wishart and junior Alex DeLong — and his offensive linemen.

The latter crew includes senior tackles John Berg and Jackson Mills, senior guard Andrew Jones, junior guard Evan Schlensker and senior center Dylan Schmitt.

“We’re going to keep driving,” Schmitt said. “It makes us feel good about ourselves. It feels like we’ve got a huge confidence boost that our run game is strong.”

Starks, who plans to run track in the spring and hopes to play football at the next level, said he can’t wait to make his first playoff appearance.

“We have to make sure all the gears are turning,” Starks said. “The vibe in the locker room is great. It’s going to be fun, a lot of smiling faces. It’s going to be awesome.”

He expects to have surgery at some point to remove the metal from his collarbone. That might add to his collection of war wounds.

“I’ve got to come up with a cool story for those scars,” Starks said. “I’m just enjoying it while I can. I’ve got to make up for what I lost these past couple years. I’ve had a lot of guys pushing me to get better each and every day. I owe it to those guys to make sure I’m doing what I’m doing.”

About the Author