MASON, Ohio - Badin capitalized on crucial turnovers and mistakes by Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy to advance to the Region 18 Division V regional final next Saturday against West Jefferson.
Two crucial CHCA turnovers in the fourth quarter helped Badin to a 31-17 win Saturday at Dwire Field.
The first came with just over seven minutes left when Badin senior linebacker Jacob Schweinefuss intercepted CHCA senior quarterback Conner Osborne’s pass on the Rams' 26-yard line.
“I thought I was a little too far behind the receiver so I did not think I could get there,” Schweinefuss said. “But it hung up there long enough for me to go get it.”
The second turnover came with just over five minutes left when Badin senior defensive back Luke Marot recovered a fumbled CHCA punt, which set up a 24-yard touchdown run by sophomore Cole Heflin to give the Rams a two-touchdown lead. Heflin finished with 127 total yards.
Undefeated CHCA was not accustomed to trailing, and the Eagles were tested three plays into the game when Badin quarterback sophomore Zach Larkin found Heflin on a 84-yard touchdown pass.
Badin extended the lead to 14-0 in the second quarter when Larkin found sophomore tight end Dominic Valentino for a 5-yard touchdown pass. The drive was set up when CHCA punted from its own end zone and the punt only went to the 10-yard line.
The Badin offense, which has been known to be a run-first offense, relied more on the pass play. Larkin finished the game with 171 passing yards and two touchdowns.
“Most of the time we are a run-first team but CHCA left single coverage on some of our better guys and it was there and why we got the big plays tonight, “ Larkin said. “We knew some stuff was going to be open and we liked what we saw and knew we could make plays.”
Despite the mistakes, CHCA was able to tie the game at 14-14 after scoring with 14 seconds left in the first half and then tying the game on the opening drive of the second half.
Osborne threw touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Michael Lantz in the first half and to freshman wide receiver Adam Baker in the second half. Baker replaced junior wide receiver Cam Murray in the second quarter after Murray was taken out of the game as a precaution after a blow to the head by Badin senior linebacker Cameron Mohr.
The Rams continued to show resiliency after being in this position a few times this season. Led by Larkin, Badin drove down the field with the help of a 56-yard pass to senior wide receiver Matthew Kreke and finished the drive with a 36-yard field goal by senior kicker Tyler Williams to take the lead, 17-14.
“The only way to become a good team and come back and respond to adversity is that you have to be through it and come out successful, “ Badin head coach Bill Tenore said. “There were several momentum shifts in the game and I do not think it really phased our kids because they battled hard all the way."
Another costly error for CHCA came with just under six minutes left in the third quarter. Osborne fumbled on the CHCA 24. With the help of a CHCA 15-yard personal foul, Badin extended the lead to 24-17 on a 2-yard run by sophomore running back Cody Boxrucker.
“It seemed like once we started to get momentum they would answer,” said CHCA head coach Eric Taylor. “They were just the better team tonight.”
Badin is three victories away of winning its first state title since 1990.