Since the inception of the playoffs in 1972, only nine high school football programs have cracked the 50-win postseason barrier.
Two of those teams will match up Friday, Sept. 7, when DeSales travels to Youngstown Mooney for the fifth meeting between the programs.
The teams met for the first two times in 2009, when the Cardinals beat the Stallions 21-14 during the regular season and 35-7 in the Division III state championship game.
DeSales beat Mooney 41-31 in 2010 and 28-7 last season on its way to a 3-0 start.
Even though the Cardinals lost three of their first four games a year ago, they went on to advance to a Division IV, Region 13 semifinal and finished 7-5, while DeSales ended up 6-4.
Both teams enter this year’s matchup after losing numerous key players to graduation, but both again are leaning on high-caliber standouts as the rest of their respective rosters mature.
DeSales opened with a 35-0 victory over Dayton Dunbar on Aug. 25 at Huber Heights Wayne in the Backyard Blitz and beat Lancaster 32-22 on Aug. 31, while Mooney opened with a 45-22 win over Ottawa (Ontario) St. Joseph’s on Aug. 24 before losing to defending Division II state champion Akron Hoban 42-13 on Aug. 31.
Against Lancaster, quarterback Reno Godfrey threw for 231 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a touchdown and Joey Velazquez rushed for 123 yards and one score to lead the Stallions’ offense.
On defense, coach Ryan Wiggins is hoping a pair of first-year starters in sophomore Quintell Quinn and junior Jaylen Ball continue to settle in at linebacker along with Velazquez behind senior defensive linemen Rodas Johnson, Cole Potts and Barron Froehlich and junior defensive end Frank Sciarroni.
“I have high expectations for our defense and I don’t think we played nearly as well as I’d like to (against Dunbar),” Wiggins said. “I know we held them to no points and we got some turnovers and I was happy with that, but I thought the tackling needs some work and we’re breaking in some new guys. We’ve started over in a few positions on defense and those guys are going to have to kind of catch up.”
While Johnson has 26 Division I scholarship offers and Velazquez has committed to Michigan, Mooney has at least three players with college futures as well.
Senior Luke Fulton, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound middle linebacker who had 125 tackles and eight forced fumbles last season, has committed to Michigan State, and 6-4, 290-pound senior offensive tackle Kyle Jornigan has a dozen scholarship offers, including ones from Pittsburgh, Purdue, Kentucky and Cincinnati.
In addition, Cheriff Jamison, a 6-4, 235-pound senior defensive end, has offers from most of the Mid-American Conference programs.
Senior running back Chris Gruber, who produced more than 500 yards of offense last season, and senior wide receiver Nico Marchionda are among the top skill-position players for Mooney, which traditionally has featured a heavy running attack.