DeSales High School boys basketball coach Blair Albright didn't mince words when discussing a few musts for his team this season.
"We have to out-compete our opponents," said Albright, who is in his ninth season leading the program. "If we don't, we won't even have an opportunity to be in a lot of games. That has to be something we do just to give ourselves a chance."
The Stallions opened Dec. 1 with an 83-63 win over visiting Briggs, having five players score in double figures. Darrien Scott, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, led the way with 20 points. Bryan Stopar, a 6-2 junior forward, had 17 points and senior forwards Oliver Grimard (6-4), Michael Hippler (6-4) and Nick Ruebel (6-1) scored 14, 11 and 10, respectively.
DeSales has seven seniors, five of whom saw playing time last season when the Stallions finished 12-10 overall and 2-6 in the CCL. But the majority of their offensive production came from players who graduated, including forward Charles Chandler (10.5 points per game, first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district) and guards Marcus Harris (6.7 ppg, first-team all-league) and Brennan Schlabig (7.6 ppg, second-team all-league).
Scott averaged 8.6 points last season and will be the "focal point" of the team, Albright said.
"He's the only senior who played more than 10 minutes a game last year," Albright said. "He can be our most steady, consistent, reliable player, and he has what it takes to be a real force in the post."
Other experienced players are seniors Chucks Ariguzo (5-11, guard), Josh Jordan (5-9, guard) and Alex Perrine (5-9, guard) and junior Taz Collins (6-1, guard).
Perrine is expected to be the starting point guard. Jordan missed most of last season with a knee injury.
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Josh DeLozier (5-10, guard) and Luke Melsop (6-4, post player).
"Generally, they're a mature group of kids. They just don't have much varsity experience," Albright said.
The Stallions open CCL play Friday, Dec. 7, at St. Charles.
Last season, DeSales finished fourth in the CCL behind Watterson (7-1), Hartley (6-2) and St. Charles (4-4) and ahead of Ready (1-7).
In the Division II district tournament a year ago, the Stallions defeated eighth-seeded Buckeye Valley 66-42 in the first round and fifth-seeded Licking Heights 61-44 in the second round before losing to seventh-seeded Eastmoor Academy 54-42 in a district semifinal.
Wrestling team starting small
The wrestling team entered the season with only a handful of weight classes filled, but first-year coach Nick Preston isn't in a hurry to fill the other spots for the sake of having more wrestlers compete in a match.
The Stallions opened Dec. 1 with the DeSales Classic and had only five wrestlers compete in seniors Ian Ferguson (170 pounds), Jeff Maynard (152) and Reno Cua (138), junior Tyler Darling (160) and sophomore Connor Cua (120).
DeSales, which has 20 wrestlers in its program, scored 122 points in the five-team event to finish last behind Hilliard Davidson (305), Amanda-Clearcreek (297), Marion Pleasant (204) and Columbus Academy (136).
"It'll be a small squad that wrestles a full varsity schedule," said Preston, a 1998 DeSales graduate who replaced Dennis Lyberger, who left after four seasons to become the coach at Olentangy. "Most of our guys will wrestle junior varsity. We have a challenging schedule and there's no reason to throw some of these guys into that with the (limited) experience they have. Varsity is somewhere you have to earn your spot. Right now, we have a lot of guys showing some potential."
Last season, Ferguson had a 33-11 record, won a Division II sectional championship at 170 and placed sixth in the district tournament at Uhrichsville Claymont. Jason Allen, a 2012 graduate, was fifth at 160 at district, as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to the state tournament at Ohio State.
Allen -- one of three seniors on the team last season along with Joey Lyberger (170) and Aaron Melsop (195) -- and Ferguson earned a combined 19 points at district, as the Stallions placed 27th behind champion Steubenville (202.5) as 44 teams scored.
DeSales finished ninth (88) in the 13-team sectional at Big Walnut behind champion Sparta Highland (172.5).
Maynard is a transfer from Johnstown. His younger brother, freshman Jake Maynard (120), is expected to join varsity later in December, Preston said.
Preston was a state champion at DeSales before going on to become a four-year letterwinner and two-time All-American at Ohio State. He won his state championship as a junior at 171 and finished third at 189 at state as a senior.
Preston also was a member of the U.S. National Team in International Freestyle Wrestling for three years and was a 2004 and 2008 Olympic hopeful before spending two seasons as an assistant coach at Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo, one year as an assistant at Ohio State and one year as an assistant at Virginia.
"I'm grateful to have a chance to work with these guys at DeSales and expose them to the knowledge and experience I've gained through wrestling," Preston said. "It's been a huge part of my life."