Because DeSales missed the postseason this fall after reaching the playoffs each of the past 18 years, the Marion-Franklin High School football team now holds central Ohio's longest-running streak of consecutive playoff appearances at nine.

Because DeSales missed the postseason this fall after reaching the playoffs each of the past 18 years, the Marion-Franklin High School football team now holds central Ohio's longest-running streak of consecutive playoff appearances at nine.

That's a fact that's not lost on coach Brian Haffele, particularly during a challenging regular season this fall.

The Red Devils are 9-1 overall and finished 7-0 in the City League-South Division marking the ninth consecutive season in which they earned at least a share of the league championship. They had to overcome injuries to several key players and a young defense to accomplish those feats.

Marion-Franklin, which beat Columbus South 43-21 on Oct. 26 in its regular-season finale and has won 26 consecutive league games, is seeded third for the Division II, Region 7 playoffs.

The Red Devils open the postseason Friday, Nov. 2, against visiting Licking Heights, which is 10-0. The winner plays Zanesville or Canal Winchester in a regional semifinal Nov. 9.

"The kids have all matured a lot this year," Haffele said. "It wasn't the year we thought we'd have, but every team has a different identity. We've had to deal with the injury bug and some guys having to go two ways. We're starting to get there. They understand this time of year. Last year we didn't start to explode on offense until the playoffs."

Marion-Franklin went 13-1 a year ago and advanced to a state semifinal before losing to eventual champion Trotwood-Madison 47-44. The Red Devils averaged 42.5 points during their four postseason games a year ago.

A third-year starter at quarterback, Corry Benson was limited to seven games during the regular season. He is 58-for-115 passing for 987 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions and has rushed for 526 yards and six touchdowns.

During his absence, Joe Alverson completed 10 of 24 passes for 252 yards with seven touchdown and four interceptions. Alverson is Marion-Franklin's leading rusher with 574 yards and six touchdowns.

Jaron Dukes, who has verbally committed to the University of Michigan, has 26 catches for 387 yards and six touchdowns. Darien Williams has 17 receptions for 393 yards and six scores.

Marion-Franklin's defense, which features senior lineman Shevone Hairston, sophomore linebackers Michael Champion, Alijahwon Tarvin and David Wilborn and sophomore lineman Shemar Moss, will try to stop a Licking Heights offense that is averaging 36.8 points.

Running backs David Lancaster and Josh Ausberry combined for about 200 yards rushing in Licking Heights' 53-0 win over Fisher Catholic on Oct. 26. Wide receivers Jake Foley and Luke Langkamp and quarterback Taylor Curtiss are other key players on offense for the Hornets, who posted their first undefeated regular season.

Curtiss, Foley and Chuckie Aitken all are key players on defense for Licking Heights.

"Corry and his class have played in a lot of playoff games," said Haffele, whose team played 10 playoff games the past three seasons, including four in both 2009 and last season. "We're starting a lot of young guys on defense and we're happy with how our defense is coming along. I've heard (Licking Heights likes) to play power football with a lot of double tight (end) formations and that they have a big offensive line. Everyone's good at this time of year, and they're 10-0, so that's better than us. It speaks to something they're doing."