Prep football: Badin finishes strong for first playoff win since 2014, turns focus to GCL Coed rival Alter

VANDALIA — Luke Tabler had a hard time standing still outside Badin High School’s locker room Friday night.

The senior cornerback was part of a defense that came up with five interceptions … and he had three of them, returning one for a touchdown … as the Rams earned their first postseason football victory since 2014.

“It’s insane. I’m shaking,” Tabler said after visiting Badin rallied from 10-0 and 16-13 deficits to defeat Vandalia Butler 33-22 in a Division III, Region 12 opener at Memorial Field. “The vibe in that locker room right now, I can’t even express it. It’s something that nobody in there has ever felt before.


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“We knew momentum was going to be switching around the whole game, and we just had to take advantage of it when it was on our side. We’re ready for Round 2.”

Marshall Flaig and Alex DeLong chipped in an interception apiece for the fifth-seeded Rams. Josh Hegemann returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown, DeLong ran for two scores and Zach Switzer hit Davon Starks for a 30-yard TD in the winning effort.

Badin (8-3) advances to a regional semifinal against Greater Catholic League Coed Division rival Alter on Friday at Barnitz Stadium in Middletown. The Rams lost to the Knights 17-7 in Week 8 and are riding a 21-game losing streak in the series.

“I think tonight is a big statement. It’s showing that we’re not a fluke, that we’re here to stay,” DeLong said. “Even when we were down 10-0, I knew our team wouldn’t quit. I’ve known that from the beginning of the year. We always strive for greatness.”

Badin gained offensive steam throughout the night. The Rams had 63 total yards in the first half, yet took a 13-10 lead into the break.

Starks ran 21 times for 95 yards and DeLong collected 86 yards on 16 carries for Badin. Switzer was 2-for-3 for 38 yards and got picked off by Bryant Johnson.

“All the credit goes to our kids,” Rams coach Nick Yordy said. “They battled through that game. They faced a little adversity, but they overcame it. Finishing has kind of been our motto all year, finishing a season and finishing football games.”

Butler (6-5), the No. 4 seed, isn’t generally a passing team, but first-year Aviators coach John Puckett liked the matchups on the perimeter, so he wanted to throw a little bit more than usual.

That move didn’t pay off on this night. Quarterback Mason Motter ran for all three Butler touchdowns and was 10-of-22 for 140 yards and the five picks.

“We dropped one touchdown pass for sure, and there were some errant throws,” Puckett said. “It really wasn’t good plays defensively. It was just bad plays offensively. They just played better than us. They executed a hell of a lot better than we did.”

The interceptions were especially painful because of where they happened. Two came inside the Badin 5-yard line. One came in the BHS end zone.

Tabler’s pick-six was a 29-yard sprint that made it 33-16 with 9:15 remaining.

“I saw the hitch, and I was going to wrap up and tackle,” Tabler said. “Then I just saw the ball coming and I was like, ‘I’m going to make a play on that.’ I just grabbed it and took off. I was thinking, ‘This is pretty cool. Hopefully there’s no flag.’ ”

He did not have an interception this season before Friday.

“It’s something about the playoffs, man,” Tabler said. “Practice just felt different this week. It’s a whole different feeling up on the hill.”

Hegemann continued to be a demon in the return game with his punt-return touchdown. He took a kickoff 97 yards for a score against Chaminade Julienne in Week 9.

On Friday, he fielded Andrew Boren’s punt on the bounce before running through the Aviators.

“It bounced a good two or three times,” Hegemann said. “I’m watching it bounce and no one’s still really around me — everybody just kind of froze. I just picked it up, saw a seam and ran right up through it. Everything was just open.”

The junior said he doesn’t do much thinking in the return game. It’s all instincts and vision.

“I’m just running on adrenaline, honestly. I can’t even process what’s happening,” Hegemann said. “I’m just running straight and not thinking. I can’t even feel myself breathe or anything.”

Hegemann’s touchdown, along with Luke VanSteenkiste’s extra point, gave Badin a 13-10 edge. Butler moved back ahead on a 17-yard scoring run by Motter with 7:29 left in the third period, but DeLong tallied his second TD four minutes later, and the visitors never trailed again.

“For the most part, what they do offensively, I thought we really took it away,” Puckett said. “We really had a chance to get off to a good start in the first quarter and didn’t. To play the way we played and go into halftime down 13-10, I think it was a little deflating to our guys.”

Yordy said the Rams made some in-game adjustments to improve their ground attack.

“Some of the things we did with our motions, we kind of took those out,” Yordy said. “I think they were watching our motions and really flying to the ball, so once we took that out of the offense, we were able to get to the edge a little bit on them.”

Said DeLong, “We were struggling a little bit early, but we were just getting started. I guess we were a little rusty coming in, but we lubed that up and got it going. The blockers, they did crazy good like always. Respect to all of them.”

The Aviators earned a 316-221 advantage in yards. Ryan Martin (22 carries, 109 yards) and Motter (21 carries, 67 yards) did all of Butler’s running.

Puckett said his senior class is special, and he’ll make sure those kids aren’t forgotten.

“My expectations were a lot higher than most, to be honest with you,” Puckett said. “If you had told me we’d host a playoff game and go 6-5, I’d have been happy for the seniors. I think they did a good job of really trying to set the standard for a successful football program. I just hate the way it ended.”

Badin 0-13-7-13—33

Butler 7-3-6-6—22

BUT: Mason Motter 1 run (Andrew Boren kick)

BUT: Boren 25 field goal

BAD: Alex DeLong 9 run (Kick failed)

BAD: Josh Hegemann 75 punt return (Luke VanSteenkiste kick)

BUT: Motter 17 run (Kick failed)

BAD: DeLong 2 run (VanSteenkiste kick)

BAD: Davon Starks 30 pass from Zach Switzer (VanSteenkiste kick)

BAD: Luke Tabler 29 interception return (Kick failed)

BUT: Motter 2 run (Kick failed)

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