Football team ready to battle New Albany
The first time the New Albany High School football team beat DeSales, 2008 graduate Kevin Smith played a major role, rushing for 65 yards on 16 carries and scoring the Eagles' only touchdown in the fourth quarter of their 10-6 win in the 2006 Division III, Region 12 final.
Senior Matt Smith, Kevin's younger brother and one of the leaders of the Eagles' defense, has learned over the years that his team benefits from what has become a yearly matchup against the Stallions.
DeSales holds a 5-3 advantage in the series since the teams met for the first time in the 2005 Division III playoffs and will play host to New Albany on Friday, Sept. 7.
"Everyone gets really excited about that game," Smith said.
"I played tight end and defensive end in the game against them as a junior. Once it's over, you're ready because it's a playoff atmosphere."
DeSales played Brookhaven and New Albany faced Westerville Central on Aug. 31.
If the teams' opening results are an accurate indicator, then the score of this year's matchup might more closely resemble New Albany's 13-10 overtime win over DeSales in 2010 than the Eagles' 27-24 victory the Stallions last year.
On Aug. 24, DeSales lost to Gahanna 13-10 in three overtimes and New Albany fell to Reynoldsburg 10-9.
The Eagles have a new set of key players at skill positions this season, with seniors Emmanuel Owusu-Antwi and Alan Watson and junior
Hayden George sharing the bulk of the carries at running back.
Junior Joe Siegenthaler (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) shined against Reynoldsburg with 80 yards on four rushes and one reception for 38 yards.
Senior Darron Lee is the Eagles' starting quarterback after seeing limited action at the position last season.
DeSales has only one returning starter on defense in senior nose guard Chris Ritter.
Senior linebacker Oliver Grimard and junior linebacker Domenic Skunda have been other early standouts.
Against Gahanna, Ritter had a fumble recovery and three sacks and Grimard had a fumble recovery and an interception, as the Stallions stopped Gahanna's offense three times inside the 5.
"All of the games (against New Albany) are fun, but we lost to them the last two years and it's a game we really want to win," said Ritter, who attended DeSales as a freshman, played on Canal Winchester's junior varsity as a sophomore and earned a starting role with the Stallions after returning to the program last season.
DeSales is employing the triple-option offense this season after running more I-formation plays a year ago.
Senior Alex Perrine is back at quarterback and senior J.T. Blubaugh returns at running back after being a contributor at the position a year ago.
DeSales was held to just 37 yards rushing against Gahanna, with Perrine rushing for just 3 yards on 25 attempts.
Grimard, senior LaShaun Sanders and juniors Griff Saunders and Andrew Sparks are options at wide receiver.
In addition to Smith, Mueller has been pleased with the contributions of junior linebacker Nick Clemons.
"They've got a real good quarterback, and they're a program team so they're going to do what they do very well," New Albany coach Mark Mueller said of the Stallions. "Now it's just a good, physical football game whenever we play them. We've got a lot of respect for them."