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Badin-Alter playoff football: Rams hoping it’s time to end losing streak, topple No. 1


Badin High School’s football team would love to take a hatchet to the streak, if for no other reason than to stop people from asking about it.

Indeed, it’s been a long, long time since the Rams have beaten Alter. Twenty-one straight defeats since Badin pulled out a 14-7 win in 1999.

On Friday night, the Greater Catholic League Coed Division rivals will meet again in a Division III, Region 12 semifinal at Barnitz Stadium in Middletown.

WEEK 12 FOOTBALL COVERAGE

» Madison’s Lehman: A football, a bow and a quest for championships

» Middletown to showcase its ‘crown jewel’ in regional semifinals

» Neutral sites for Badin, Lakota East, Fenwick, Madison in Round 2

“We’re not hiding from it, we’re not running from it,” Rams coach Nick Yordy said. “But I’ll say this again: If we’re worried about the last time we beat them, we’re not focusing on the right things. We’re going to show up and play a football game.”

Badin is 8-3 and making its first playoff appearance since 2015, opening the postseason with a 33-22 victory at Vandalia Butler. The Rams dropped a 17-7 decision at Alter in Week 8.

The Knights are 10-1 and competing in the playoffs for the 18th consecutive season. They are ranked first in Ohio by the Associated Press and edged Mount Healthy 14-12 last weekend.

The closeness of that Alter-Mount Healthy game, a 1 vs. 8 matchup, and the last Badin-Alter contest have added fuel to the Rams’ hopes of finally conquering the Knights.

“That’s a cool streak for them, but now is now,” Badin junior linebacker Keegan Gormley said. “We’re looking forward to going out there and creating our own streak. It’s our time. Definitely.”

At Alter, there’s a realization that nothing lasts forever. But there’s also plenty of resolve to not be the squad that comes up short against the Rams.

“We can’t be the team to end the streak,” said Knights senior rover Antwann Martin Jr., a GCL Coed North Division Co-Defensive Player of the Year. “The attitude right now going through the playoffs is refuse to lose. We’ve had a lot of success in the past. That goes into our tradition, and I feel like it carries on to all teams that play at Alter. The bar is always set high here.”

Alter coach Ed Domsitz would be happy to focus on the streak if he thought it would help his team.

“I just don’t see that it gives us much of an edge, if any,” he said. “I don’t think Badin is intimidated by that streak. Our kids look at that as being history. Even the game we played a month ago is history. What’s important is the here and now.”

Far more important to Domsitz is his team’s performance against Mount Healthy. Alter led 14-0 at halftime, but turned the ball over twice from there. The Owls threw an incomplete pass on a 2-point conversion, then had a field goal blocked, as the Knights survived.

Domsitz said Alter was relieved to hear that it would face Mount Healthy rather than Trotwood-Madison in the first round. That may have led to the Knights being a bit overconfident.

“They were not a No. 8 seed. I don’t know what seed they were, but they were not a No. 8,” Domsitz said. “A lot of people and some of our fans thought, ‘They’re 5-5. How tough can they be?’ Well, look at some of the teams they’ve played. Some of our kids and a couple of our coaches thought they were the best team we played all year.”

“We expected them to be very physical, fast and strong, but their record said they were 5-5,” Martin said. “That game really taught us that you can’t let records deceive you. You can win just as easily as you can lose. You’ve got to prepare for everybody because you don’t know what they’re bringing.”

Martin said the Knights were surprised and had to adjust when Badin came out with a different offensive look in their last meeting. In that respect, Yordy said switching up formations and personnel sets was a move that had its intended effect.

Alter’s wishbone attack “only” produced 176 rushing yards in that contest, but the Knights got a fine performance from University of Missouri-bound quarterback Connor Bazelak, who was 10-of-12 for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

“There are times when the passing game has helped us big time to win games. Badin was one of them,” Domsitz said. “I will say this about our offense: It’s helped us win a lot of ballgames over the years. I get complaints from our own people that it’s an antiquated offense, that we need to throw more. Badin does a lot of what we do. (Yordy) must be convinced what we do is pretty nice. I think it is.”

Sophomore Branden McDonald leads the Knights on the ground with 1,318 yards and 16 touchdowns on 139 carries. Bazelak is 78-of-132 for 1,179 yards and 11 TDs with two interceptions.

In terms of the GCLC, Domsitz said he’s proud of the fact that Alter, Badin and Fenwick remain alive in D-III. All three are D-IV schools when it comes to actual enrollment, but are playing up because of competitive balance.

Badin’s program appears to be on the rise. Guys like senior fullback Ethan Wishart have savored the steady improvement, from 2-8 in 2016 to 5-5 last year to at least eight wins in 2018. Yordy took over for Bill Tenore last season.

“Returning to dominance,” Wishart said. “I thought we would do this once Coach Yordy came and brought some positivity to the team. That’s when it changed.”

Wishart has an important, though thankless, role in the Rams’ offense. He carries the ball a little bit, but he’s mostly a blocker for senior Davon Starks (202 carries, 1,170 yards, 13 TDs) and junior Alex DeLong (118 carries, 737 yards, six TDs).

“You’ve just got to keep your head up and be a good teammate,” Wishart said. “It’s great blocking for those guys, and when they need a few yards or a first down from me, I can get it.”

Wishart and Gormley have basically switched roles over the course of the season. Gormley, who transferred from St. Xavier during the 2017 campaign and wasn’t able to play until Week 4 this year, carried the ball 12 times in his first two games as a Ram. Now his focus is playing inside linebacker.

“Gormley was playing a little bit both ways early on, but we’re trying to get guys as much rest as possible,” Yordy said. “Gormley is a very good defensive player, and Wishart does a great job in his role. He doesn’t get a lot of praise for what he’s able to do on the field.”

Gormley lives in Fairfield Township and attended St. Peter in Chains School in Hamilton before opting to enroll at St. X. He was a starter at the freshman and junior varsity levels for the Bombers.

“I’ve always been sort of a Badin kid at heart,” Gormley said. “My mom thought (St. X) would be a better opportunity and I was open for change, but it wasn’t the right fit. It ended up that I wanted to be a Ram. I’ve been welcomed with open arms by everyone. It’s like I never left.”

He said the playoff atmosphere is “amazing” and the Rams will be prepared to meet Alter for the 36th time in school history.

“It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work,” Gormley said. “Everybody has been stepping up a notch. Everybody is really zoned in and ready to play.”

Friday’s game

What: Division III, Region 12 football semifinal, No. 5 seed Badin (8-3) vs. No. 1 seed Alter (10-1), 7 p.m.

Where: Cris Carter Field at Barnitz Stadium, 1211 S. Main St., Middletown

Series: Alter leads 25-10 and has won the last 21 meetings, including 17-7 in Week 8 this year

Next: Winner will play Fenwick or Wapakoneta for the regional title Nov. 16 at a neutral site


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