The Ross-Badin prep football rivalry is back from the dead.
Butler County’s two Ram programs will open the season Friday night in a Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown matchup at Hamilton’s Virgil Schwarm Stadium.
It’ll be the first time they’ve met since the 2010 campaign.
“I think it’s awesome,” Ross coach Kenyon Commins said. “This is a small-school version of Colerain-La Salle or Oak Hills-Elder or whatever. It’s just an obvious rivalry, and as the game gets closer, it’s amazing how many people have called me that are alumni and how much they care.”
Commins and Badin coach Nick Yordy are first-year head coaches and good friends. Their relationship is just one of many connections between the schools.
“Credit both schools for making the effort to get the game back on,” Yordy said. “We’re not the only rivalry game in Cincinnati, but for our communities, this is a big game. Our kids know that, Ross kids know that. That’s what makes it fun.”
Neither program enjoyed much success last season. Both teams were 2-8 and winless in October.
At Ross, senior linebacker Joe Valentine said Commins has given the Rams a daily jolt of enthusiasm.
“It’s high energy, win the day, take everything as you can,” Valentine said. “Obviously we want to beat Badin … that’s the motto this week. But we aren’t going to let this game define us.”
Badin senior Kegen Rogers, a two-way starter at halfback and linebacker, said it was a long, difficult offseason on New London Road.
“We are excited. We’ve been thinking about this for months,” Rogers said. “I truly believe that we’ve put the work in, and we’re ready to show it on the field.”
Rogers lives in the Ross district and has a brother, Kaden, that plays on the Ross freshman team. Kegen has friends that will be wearing maroon-and-gold Friday.
“We’ve been texting. We’ve been telling each other what’s up,” he said. “They’re my brothers. I’ll always love them, but I’m ready to show ’em what I’ve got on Friday night.”
Senior Jordan Flaig has won the starting quarterback job for Badin. Junior Dylan Zimmerman is the QB for Ross.
Commins has installed a triple-option offense at Ross. He believes Zimmerman, a former receiver, has the ability to make it go.
“He can zing it pretty good, but definitely his legs are his biggest asset,” Commins said. “He adds a little bit of a home-run element to us. People look at him and think he’s a skinny little twig, but he’s a lot tougher, more durable and a lot stronger than what people realize.”
The new offense hasn’t been terribly successful in the preseason, with Ross seeking consistency from a stable of running backs. Commins said it’s still “by far” the best fit for his program as a whole.
“When I say program, I mean from K-1 all the way up to and through the varsity level,” he said. “It’s a disciplined system, you don’t need the best athletes in the world to run it, and you don’t necessarily have to have big grinders up front.”
The Ross defense has more experience returning and, not surprisingly, is the team’s strength right now.
“The whole defense is clicking,” Valentine said. “We know each other. We know what each other’s going to do. I wouldn’t say (the defense has to) carry the team, but the offense, they just haven’t found what they need to find yet. I’m really confident they will do that this Friday against Badin.”
Yordy said his defensive unit is more comfortable than the offense because the “D” hasn’t changed this year. Offensively, Badin has switched from the pistol Wing-T to a pro-style, multiple-formation approach.
Depth is an issue for the green-and-white, according to Yordy.
“Ross is two-platoon, and we’ve got a lot of guys going both ways,” he said. “We’ve got our guys in the best possible condition that we can get them in at this point. I think we can mix guys in and out periodically to give them breathers if they need it. Hopefully we’re ready and the adrenaline’s going and we won’t have to rely on that a whole lot.”
Badin/Hamilton Catholic has never lost to Ross, winning all 12 games in a series that began in 1959.
“Just a little more pressure,” Yordy said with a laugh. “I know you can’t predict anything, but I think our kids will go out hard. Anything can happen in a rivalry game.”
Commins said previous Ross-Badin results mean very little to him.
“The great thing is I wasn’t around for any of those games, and neither were these kids,” he said. “That’s something for people to talk about, but the past really has no relevance to me in this game. We’ve got to worry about us right now.”
A big crowd is expected at Schwarm Stadium. The schools’ last meeting was a 31-13 road triumph for Badin at Robinson Field.
“To say this one game makes or breaks your season, I think that’s kind of silly,” Commins said. “But man, it’s a big game. I think this is a bragging rights game where you can puff your chest out a little bit when you’re at a local festival or at Eli’s or wherever.
“I really think it’s going to be a slugfest. I think it’s going to be a very, very physical, tough game. Like the shirt says, may the best Ram win. We’ll find out who that is Friday at 7 o’clock.”