Walsh, dominant defense lead Badin to state championship game

Rams blank Granville 14-0 in Division III semifinal

LONDON – Two unstoppable forces – running back Jack Walsh and the defensive front four of Logan Neu, Kaden Starks, Jackson Martin and Hunter Harrison – combined Friday night to lead Badin football to a place it hadn’t been since 1990.

The state championship game.

The Rams defeated Granville 14-0 in the Division III semifinals at London High School. The temperature was below freezing, but that didn’t stop the Rams from dumping ice water on head coach Nick Yordy. He didn’t mind.

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“We’ve played a whole extra month here and it’s been a grind,” Yordy said. “To get here is great, but we’ve got four quarters left to try and go out and win a football game.”

Walsh didn’t have to ponder what it meant to reach the championship game. He just started listing everything that came to mind as he stood in the middle of the field.

“It’s a dream come true, season goals come true, taking it one game at a time, battled every game, worked hard every week and now we’re here,” he said.

Here is this Friday at 3 p.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton against defending champion and unbeaten Chardon, a 41-7 winner over Millersburg West Holmes.

“Amazing – that is unreal,” Starks said. “All glory to God. He got us here.”

The Rams (14-0) scored twice in the first half on runs of 3 and 22 yards by Walsh. He rushed for over 100 yards in each half and finished with 226 on 43 carries. With quarterback Landyn Vidourek sidelined with a broken hand suffered in last week’s game, the rushing load is completely on Walsh. Both of his touchdowns came on direct snaps with new quarterback Alex Ritzie on the sideline.

“Landon was a weapon for us running the ball, so having Jack back there and just snap him the ball so we could have Braedyn Moore be a lead blocker that’s a pretty good combination,” Yordy said. “We’ve got to do whatever we can to try to win a football game.”

Ritzie completed 7 of 13 passes for 64 yards, including a 37-yarder to Moore to the 3 to set up Walsh’s first score.

“It hurts losing Landyn, but Ritzie’s stepping up great – doing everything he needs to do,” Walsh said.

The defense stopped everything Granville wanted to do. They held 2,000-yard rusher Devon Haley to 52 yards on 18 carries. And when quarterback Carsyn Crouch, who wasn’t expected to play because of a knee injury, had to throw more in the second half, the front four sacked him five times.

“That’s just a great effort by everybody,” Starks said. “The plan was to get helmets to the ball and that’s what we did.”

Starks had 2.5 sacks, including back-to-back ones in the fourth quarter that backed Granville up to its own 4. The Rams held the Blue Aces to 178 total yards and two net rushing yards because of the sacks.

“I can’t even begin to describe how important that is,” Walsh said. “Being able to rely on your defense to consistently give up zero points, it’s absurd. Nothing more you could ask for as an offensive player.”

The link to Badin’s past was on Yordy’s mind after the game. In his five years as head coach at his alma mater, his co-play caller has been Steve Malone, the youngest son of former 46-year Badin head coach Terry Malone. Under Malone, who died in 2017, the Rams played in eight state semifinals, three finals and won the 1990 championship. When he retired in 2003, his 360 wins were the most in state history.

Yordy was a junior and Steve Malone was a sophomore on the 1995 Badin team that lost to Clyde in the semifinals.

“It means a lot to him and his family,” Yordy said of Steve. “I’m lucky to have him on my staff. He’s a great coach, and I rely on him a lot. Having that tie with Coach Malone – it’s pretty special.”

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