The way coach Jeff Pharion sees it, the toughness of the St. Charles Preparatory School football team's schedule should have the Cardinals prepared physically for their annual matchup with DeSales.
However, Pharion knows what's going on inside the minds of his players could make the difference when the teams meet Friday, Oct. 4, at St. Charles.
The Stallions have a 38-3 all-time record against the Cardinals, having beaten St. Charles in each of the past 36 seasons.
The Cardinals, who beat the Columbus Crusaders 27-24 on Sept. 27 and are 3-2 overall, lost to Hartley 20-7 on Sept. 20 in the first matchup between the schools since 1988.
"The thing we have to get over in these CCL games is our own emotions," Pharion said. "It was the first time in a long time against Bishop Hartley and we turned it over three times. I think our schedule definitely prepares us for the CCL."
DeSales also is 3-2. On Sept. 27, the Stallions snapped defending Division IV state champion Clarksville Clinton-Massie's 19-game winning streak with a 21-16 victory.
In a 41-20 win Sept. 20 at Toledo Rogers, the Stallions produced 258 yards of offense, including 245 on the ground, in support of a defense that has been strong most of the season.
"I think we have to throw it a little bit to win games against good competition, but we're starting to run the ball better," DeSales coach Ryan Wiggins said.
"We've played New Albany and Westerville Central, which are two of the better teams in our area, and New Albany is probably one of the better teams in (the state in Division II). I feel like we've traveled, and that prepares us."
DeSales lost to Westerville Central 29-7 on Aug. 30 but gave up just one touchdown after the first quarter. The Stallions also held New Albany, which is 5-0, to a season-low point total in the Eagles' 17-0 win Sept. 13.
DeSales passed just three times against Rogers and once against Clinton-Massie.
Senior running back Tucker Yinger rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns and senior Josh DeLozier returned a kickoff 78 yards for the other score against Clinton-Massie.
Senior linebackers John Quinn and George Sims have led the St. Charles defense. The Cardinals were beating the Crusaders 27-8 late in the third quarter.
"I thought our defense was pretty lights out against Eastmoor (48-8 win Sept. 6) and Big Walnut (34-0 win Sept. 13)," Pharion said.
Seniors Bryan Stopar (DL) and Emmanuel Mawutor (LB) have led the DeSales defense. St. Charles' offense has featured junior NiQuille Bell (RB/WR) and senior Michael Hamrock (RB).
Against the Crusaders, Bell rushed for 57 yards and one touchdown and sophomore running back Jacob Nowell had 121 yards and one score on 18 carries.
Quarterback Ryan Bailey also could be back for the Cardinals after suffering a sprained knee against Eastmoor. Junior Jacob Moehrman and sophomore Joe Maciejewski have seen action in his place.
"I think our kids are playing with a lot of guts," Wiggins said.
"We've still got to force teams into third-and-longs a lot better. The biggest issue has been (giving up) big plays, but it's hard to knock our defense."