Commentary

Blowout erases 36 years of frustration for St. Charles

Coach Jeff Pharion said it best before his St. Charles Preparatory School football team played DeSales in 2010.

He was fed up with his program's losing streak against the Stallions and wanted to see it end.

"I want it to be over. It needs to be over. Everyone understands that it's something that we need to do," Pharion said of trying to break a 33-game drought that grew to 34 by the end of that night and 36 before the Oct. 4 meeting at Ohio Dominican University.

Maybe the venue change was the key. The Cardinals dominated from the opening kickoff en route to a 36-0 victory that eased years of frustration.

An emotional Pharion, like a proud papa showing pride in his children, said: "I have no comment. Talk to the players. It's all about them."

The Cardinals hadn't beaten the Stallions since a 14-6 victory in 1976.

For Pharion and his program, the losing streak had become like a cut that wouldn't heal, with the wound being opened annually as the midseason meeting would draw near.

DeSales is in Pharion's blood:

*He is a 1986 graduate of St. Charles. Before high school, he went to St. James the Less, a DeSales feeder school on Oakland Park Avenue.

*His father, Jeff, was the defensive coordinator at St. Charles in 1976. After coaching the Cardinals from 1970-88, he was an assistant at DeSales under Bob Jacoby from 1989-96.

*His brother, Mike, is a 1992 DeSales graduate who played cornerback on the 1990 state runner-up team that lost to St. Marys Memorial 14-3 in the Division II final. He also played on the 1991 state semifinalist team.

After years of trying to find the right approach to the DeSales game -- whether to make the game the be-all and end-all or just another game on the schedule -- the Cardinals returned to basics to end the losing streak.

"This year, we focused on the basics," said senior defensive lineman Gabe Klingler, who had six tackles, including three for losses, and one sack against the Stallions. "We worked on our technique and stressed finding the football. When we play defense, we just had to find the football."

Last year, St. Charles lost 28-16 at DeSales, thanks in part to four turnovers. Klingler said that loss was a learning experience that fueled this season's blowout win.

"We learned that if you don't play assignment football, that if you don't trust the person next to you, then you can't win," said Klingler, whose team improved to 4-2 overall. "The challenge coming in was our emotions. ... We stayed loose. Last year, we came out a little too high. This year, we stayed in control and did what we needed to do to come out on top."

By keeping their emotions in check, the Cardinals were able to keep the Stallions in check:

•St. Charles had 407 total yards compared to 132 for DeSales.

•The Stallions had 82 yards rushing, most of which came in the fourth quarter with the game already decided.

•Junior NiQuille Bell ran for 102 yards, including touchdowns of 52 and 22 yards, as the Cardinals slotback lined up at quarterback in a Wildcat formation. He also returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown.

•Senior wide receiver Ben Hale wrestled the ball from DeSales defensive back Tucker Yinger in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Ryan Bailey with 13 seconds left in the first half for a two-touchdown lead.

•Hale, also a defensive back who has verbally committed to Bowling Green, later ripped the ball out of the hands of DeSales running back Jake Gilmore and raced 56 yards for a touchdown to close the scoring with 2:23 left in the third quarter.

•Bailey was 13-for-15 passing for 117 yards, all in the first half.

Fittingly, the streak ended on Pharion's birthday. The 46-year-old might have said it best as he huddled with his team in the south end zone: "This is only the beginning."

It indeed may be a beginning -- the first step toward a CCL-Silver Division title. That will be determined Oct. 25 at Watterson.

Comments