“I tried, man,” Zach said with emotion. “I tried. These have been the best four years of my life. Playing for my dad and everything else. I’m sad. I’m real sad it had to end this way.”
“It’s been unbelievable,” Nick Yordy chimed in about his son. “This is why guys get into coaching. He played his ass off tonight. I’m happy for him, and I’m proud of him — and all of these seniors, for what they’ve done and how they’ve represented Badin.”
Zach Yordy scored three touchdowns to power the top-seeded Rams offensively, but Celina’s Braylon Gabes returned an 80-yard interception for a touchdown to help the sixth-seeded Bulldogs secure a 37-25 victory Friday in a Division III, Region 12 final at Trotwood-Madison.
“I wish I could say that it surprises me,” Celina coach Brennen Bader said of Gabes. “He’s made so many of those plays all season. Nothing shocks me anymore. We’ve got a lot of very good players. He’s just been the one when we kind of need a play, he’s the guy to do it.”
Celina (12-2) advances to the state semifinals against Columbus Watterson next Friday, Nov. 24, at a neutral site to be announced Saturday. Columbus Watterson beat Bellefontaine 19-13 on Friday.
“I think we made a few more plays than they did tonight,” Bader said. “That’s what we ask our kids to do — it’s one play at a time and let the dust settle where it may. I’m happy for our guys. They deserve it. They’re a great group. "
Badin (13-1) will graduate 25 seniors, a group that didn’t lose a regular season game in four years.
The Rams finished 48-4 the last four seasons and played in six consecutive regional semifinals and three straight regional finals. Badin fell to Tippecanoe on a late field goal in last year’s regional final at Trotwood-Madison and lost to Chardon 21-14 in the 2021 state final.
“This is a great group of kids,” Nick Yordy said. “I wish we were still playing. They had an unbelievable career. They’ve got nothing to hang their heads about at this point in the regional finals. Everybody that you’re playing is good. They’re good. They’re here for a reason. They played really well tonight.”
The Bulldogs utilized the athleticism of Gabes, the Western Buckeye League’s Offensive and Defensive Back of the Year, all night.
Gabes tossed a touchdown, scored two rushing touchdowns — including a 49-yarder after breaking loose from a handful of Badin tacklers that gave Celina a 7-6 lead in the first quarter — and grabbed two interceptions.
“He’s one of the better high school football players I think I’ve ever seen,” Nick Yordy said. “That kid’s incredible. We couldn’t stop him. He was good. We saw him on film, and he lived up to it.”
Lem Grayson scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to give Badin a 25-24 lead with just under nine minutes left to play.
Celina senior Zach Greber booted field goals from 41 and 45 yards in the second half, and the pick-6 by Gabes capped off 13 straight unanswered to clinch it for the Bulldogs.