Since the Hartley and DeSales high school football programs renewed their rivalry in 2014 after not having faced each other since 1987, the teams have split four tight matchups.

There usually has been something big on the line such as a league title or playoff computer points, and that is the case again when they meet Friday, Oct. 12, at DeSales.

"All the chips are to the middle of the table," DeSales coach Ryan Wiggins said.

That's the case regarding how the Stallions are approaching what could end up being a must-win for their playoff hopes.

DeSales beat the Hawks in both 2015 and 2016 when it made extended Division III playoff runs and Hartley went on to win Division IV state championships.

A win over the Hawks would have gotten the Stallions into last year's postseason. Instead, Hartley won 23-21 as DeSales went through a late-season stretch in which it lost four of six and ended up finishing 6-4 and out of the Division III, Region 11 playoffs.

Both teams enter this year's meeting at 5-2 overall and 1-0 in the CCL, with Hartley at No. 4 and DeSales at No. 7 in computer points in Region 11. The top eight teams make the playoffs.

"To me there are a lot of points on our schedule," Wiggins said. "The key is you've got to go get them, and that's what we're trying to do. We talked about having a great week with championship effort and focus. Playing (Hartley) four years in a row, all the games could have gone either way. Some went ours, some went theirs. Mistakes are going to mean a lot. There's going to be a handful of key plays. We're going to try to get healthy and mentally and physically ready for a big football game."

Hartley would move closer to locking up a home playoff game with a win over the Stallions considering it already has beaten two teams that have 6-1 records.

The Hawks defeated Dayton Belmont 42-8 on Oct. 5 as Jalan January rushed for two touchdowns to give him 12 on the season, and Mason Sawyer rushed for two scores to give him seven overall. January had rushed for 926 yards through six games.

Wiggins has been impressed with Hartley quarterback Miles Fleming, who had completed 19 of 42 passes for 515 yards with six touchdowns and one interception through six games.

Philip Cole, who had 13 catches for 361 yards and four touchdowns through six games, also is a big playmaker.

"We've been getting better in all areas," Hartley coach Brad Burchfield said. "I can see it in practices and it's carried over to the field. Now the stakes are getting higher and we need to continue to get better.

"(DeSales) is the matchup we think about and keep an eye on all the time. We have a lot of respect for them and we understand that if we want to be the best team in the CCL, we have to play better than them. This is a huge challenge. They have incredible talent and a really well-coached scheme."

The Stallions have had to adjust their offense on the fly after losing quarterback Reno Godfrey to a season-ending injury during a 35-14 loss Sept. 21 to Covington (Kentucky) Catholic. He had thrown for 940 yards and nine touchdowns through five games.

Senior Joey Velazquez has shown his versatility by seeing the bulk of the snaps at quarterback the last two games.

In a 33-15 victory over Terre Haute (Indiana) North Vigo on Oct. 5, Velazquez completed four of seven passes for 78 yards and rushed 16 times for 140 yards with three touchdowns. Jaylen Ball had 10 carries for 82 yards and one touchdown.

Senior Vince Thompson also has seen time at quarterback since Godfrey's injury.

The Stallions have been without senior center Collin Doyle the past four games, with senior Max Irion settling in as his replacement. Senior Rodas Johnson and junior Cole Potts are at guard and seniors Bo Hobgood and Dylan McKinney are the tackles.

"As (an offensive line) unit we're challenging them to get better and better," Wiggins said.

"The biggest thing that has hurt us is untimely penalties, or we'll get down in the red zone and get a holding call.

"A turnover (against North Vigo) put us in a bad situation and they ended up scoring, but early in the game we were able to come out with an interception. Our defense has played hard. We're still running our offense. (Velazquez) can run the football from (the quarterback position) and he can run the same stuff."

Carter Hilleary, Robert Robinson and Barron Froehlich all had interceptions against North Vigo, which is the second Division I team DeSales has beaten this season.

Although Hartley has allowed an average of 23 points, its losses are to state-ranked Toledo Central Catholic (42-17 on Aug. 24), which was second in Division II last week, and Clarksville Clinton-Massie (34-31 on Sept. 21), which was fifth in Division IV.

The Hawks also have a dependable kicker in senior Matteo Agriesti, who became the program's all-time leader in kicking points when he made five extra points against Belmont.

"Their team revolves around (Velazquez) on both sides of the ball," Burchfield said. "He's a physical player and we need to do our very best to not allow him to control the game on both sides of the ball. They're well-coached in their new offensive scheme. They do a great job at putting defenders in conflict. Defensively they will make us earn every inch. This is going to take our very best effort."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek