High school football: Bath shows resilience

BATH TOWNSHIP — The cheer coming from the Bath football locker room Friday night was loud and clear:

“The ‘Cats are back in town!”

Elida certainly knew it, after seeing Bath rally back for a 21-17 win that knocked the Bulldogs from the ranks of the unbeaten. The community saw it too, filling the stands as the Wildcats celebrated parents night and bringing an electricity not seen often at the school.

“We showed up for the community,” sophomore quarterback Zach Welsch said. “The whole team did.”

There’s an enthusiasm and confidence around the Wildcats, who are 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the Western Buckeye League entering Friday night’s game at Ottawa-Glandorf. It’s a confidence that comes with winning, which hasn’t happened much recently at the school.

While Bath has a proud football history, including two WBL championships in the 1990s and four in the 1980s, the Wildcats have been fairly tame recently. Last year’s team went 0-10. The last season above .500, 2015, was the only winning season in the past 20 years, although the Wildcats did start the 2021 campaign at 3-1 before finishing the regular season 5-5. The 2003 team went 8-4.

While Bath has some historical baggage, it also has a fresh start. Coach Frank Russell is in his first year as the head coach, after serving as an assistant coach at Cincinnati Colerain and Franklin. He brought an upbeat attitude that caught fire.

“It’s definitely helped with the new coaching staff,” said Kahne Sullivan, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior. “On the first day, you could feel the difference. We believed in ourselves from the start.”

That was evident in the win against Elida. Bath had several miscues, including fumbling the opening kickoff and a pair of errant long snaps on punts in the first half. Still, the Wildcats remained focused and performed when it mattered. That included Sullivan’s interception in the end zone with 3 seconds remaining that sealed the win against Elida.

That followed up Welsch’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Cole with 50 seconds remaining in that game.

“Zach Welsch was getting beaten around all night long, and he still makes big play after big play,” Russell said.

Thrilling finishes have been part of Bath’s DNA this year. In four of the Wildcats’ first five games, the margin of victory averaged 4.5 points.

Back on Sept. 2, the Wildcats pulled out a 20-17 overtime win against Shawnee on a 4-yard Mikey Hale touchdown run in overtime. The Wildcats also had a seven-point win against New Bremen to open up the season.

In Week 4, Bath gave up a long touchdown pass as time expired to lose at Kenton, 34-38.

After playing winless Ottawa-Glandorf, the Wildcats face one-loss Celina and Defiance teams before taking on two-loss Wapakoneta. The Wildcats finish the season against St. Marys.

They are just enjoying the success as it happens this year.

“There’s a little bit of pressure, but we have a great coaching staff,” Welsch said. “We have great teammates. It couldn’t be better.”

David Trinko wrote this story for LimaOhio.com. Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.