The DeSales High School football team fell short of making the postseason for the second year in a row after making 18 consecutive playoff appearances from 1994 to 2011.
After facing one Division I and three Division II teams among their first six opponents, the Stallions were 3-3 heading into their CCL matchup against Watterson on Oct. 18 at home.
DeSales beat Watterson 13-3 and defeated Cincinnati LaSalle 34-6 on Oct. 25. But as it turned out, those wins weren't enough to keep the Stallions from being mathematically eliminated from a playoff spot even before they closed the regular season with a 26-16 loss to Akron Buchtel on Nov. 2.
DeSales finished 5-4 overall and was 11th in the final Division III, Region 9 computer ratings, falling three spots shy of a playoff berth.
The four teams that beat the Stallions had a combined regular-season record of 32-8, with Westerville Central (a 29-7 loss Aug. 30) making the Division I, Region 1 playoffs and New Albany (a 17-0 loss Sept. 13) and St. Charles (a 36-0 on Oct. 4) qualifying in Division II, Region 5.
"Football is definitely a game of numbers and we've only got about 55 players (in grades 10 through 12) total," coach Ryan Wiggins said. "It's not like we got beat by any slouches. We had some weaknesses and we had a hard time overcoming them. When you're outsized it's one thing, but it's hard when it's also a numbers thing."
DeSales went 1-1 in the CCL-Silver Division to place behind St. Charles (2-0) and ahead of Watterson (0-2).
The Stallions lose 24 seniors, including their leading tackler in Griff Saunders (LB), second-leading rusher in Tucker Yinger (RB/DB) and other key players in Sayyid Kanu (RB/DB), Emanuel Mawutor (RB/LB), Bryan Stopar (OL/DL) and Domenic Skunda (LB).
Saunders, who has committed to Bowling Green State University, finished with 10 tackles for loss in seven games.
DeSales expects to return several key players on both sides of the ball.
"We ended up with nine or 10 underclassmen playing a lot on offense, and that includes our entire offensive front," Wiggins said. "We have two quarterbacks coming back who took snaps. We lose five or six seniors on defense, but there are a dozen or so juniors and a couple sophomores coming back who will mean a lot next year."
One of the biggest positives of the final three games was the play of sophomore running back Austin Andrews, who ran for 388 yards on 55 carries and finished the season as the team's leading rusher with 526 yards and four touchdowns.
Yinger had 418 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
Junior Brandon Krietemeyer was at quarterback for the first five games and finished 19-for-57 passing for 257 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions. Junior Josh DeLozier was behind center for the last four games and completed 24 of 47 passes for 353 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Senior wide receiver Andrew Sparks was the team's leader in receptions with 11 for 159 yards. Junior Adam Acquista, who also was one of the team's place-kickers, had six catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior wide receiver Michael Wade had five catches for 98 yards and Andrews had seven receptions for 30 yards.
Other key players expected back include juniors Luke Melsop (TE/LB) and Nick O'Brien (OL).
Melsop was one of the team's leading tacklers, according to Wiggins.
Other offensive linemen eligible to return include juniors Andrew Barber, Bryan Dytko and Drew Selegue and sophomore Nick Carter.
"We see the amount of potential we have," Andrews said. "The sky's the limit. We know our hard work can pay off."