The last time Badin and Hamilton met on a football field, Rams head coach Nick Yordy was still in college.
“It was so long ago, I don’t even remember it happening,” Yordy said.
Current Hamilton Head Coach Arvie Crouch was on the sidelines, but not as a head coach, as an assistant. Badin would win 21-14, led by legendary head coach Terry Malone.
“It was very physical, both teams were well coached, we just came out on the short end of the stick,” Crouch told the Hamiltonian. “There’s one specific memory I have schematically. They ran the full house; Coach Malone put a little wrinkle in there, putting a guy in motion, which you don’t expect out of the full house.”
It has been over 22 years since that Fall Friday night, with the two schools not meeting on the gridiron since.
That ends this September.
The roots of this renewed rivalry go back years with direct ties to the Mt. Healthy Owls. Crouch, the longtime head coach of the Owls, gave Yordy one of his first coaching opportunities as offensive coordinator at Mt. Healthy. The now Badin head coach says his current role wouldn’t have been possible without the lessons he learned under Crouch.
“There’s a lot of history with the coaching staffs,” Yordy said. “I don’t think I would be the coach at Badin had it not been for the success we had at Mt. Healthy.”
“He’s gotta remember he was taught by the best,” Crouch laughed. “He’s a wonderful man. I love him to death. Like a brother.”
It all started with a conversation between two friends. Crouch reached out to Yordy shortly after his hiring at Hamilton before the 2022 season, admittedly he wasn’t sure how much interest Yordy would have in playing, but it was one of the first things on his mind after getting the job, thinking it was only natural for Badin and Hamilton to play each other.
“I called him and said, ‘Listen, we need to do this.’ I’m just trying to create positive momentum for our program,” Crouch said.
That led to talks between athletic directors and school officials, who were able to come to an agreement.
For Badin, the idea couldn’t come at a better time. Yordy said they are having trouble finding teams to play, as evident by their trip to Cleveland in week one last season to play Villa Angela-St. Joseph, followed by a home game against St. Francis DeSales. Badin will make the trip to Columbus to visit DeSales this upcoming season.
Preventing the two teams from playing no longer made sense.
“It’s exciting,” Yordy said. “It’s going to be a big crowd, and we anticipate that. There’s a lot of tradition and history on both sides. You have a public and a private school in the same town, five minutes from each other…”
When news of the agreement was made public, skeptics questioned Crouch’s decision to play such an established and talented Division III program as Badin. While at the same time, Hamilton still has the brand recognition of a solid Division I team. Would it be worth it?
“There was always a bunch of pressure here and there, but I don’t care about all that stuff,” Crouch said. “Some people will say I have a lot to lose. I don’t have anything to lose; we’re playing a great program that has kids all over the place. I look at them as a Division I program. They’re winning championships; it will be a challenge for us.”
Both teams have positive momentum going into this season. The 2022 campaign saw a litany of young players gaining experience for both teams; now, it’s time for maturity to have its impact. Badin will field a healthy amount of seniors, including experience at the quarterback position in Alex Ritzie. Furthermore, defensive coordinator Joe Schlager is expected to field a stout defense, as he has consistently over the years.
For Hamilton and Crouch, 2022 was about shifting the culture. 2023 is about reaping what was sowed last season.
“I just want us to turn the corner of being a confident team,” Crouch said. “Last year’s team, we were waiting for bad things to happen. These kids expect to win; they expect good things to happen.
“We were very young offensively last year; we expect big things out of the guys this year… We got it hummin’ right now. The kids are buying in; now we just have to put the wins in there.”
The two teams will face off on August 18 at 7:00 pm. The game is to be held at Hamilton High School, and the two schools are planning multiple events throughout the city leading up to the contest.
“It’s important to the city, important to the schools. I think the gate is going to be pretty good,” Yordy laughed.
-- Keegan Nickoson