DeSales High School boys soccer midfielder Jack Francisco scored his only goal of a Division II district semifinal against Hartley with five minutes to play in the first half Oct. 24 to give the Stallions a 2-0 lead, and according to coach Domenic Romanelli, that goes by Francisco's usual schedule.
"Our motto is you may not beat a guy the first, second or third time, but by the fourth time, look out," Romanelli said. "That's how he goes. Jack is kind of a slow starter. He plays himself into games to the point that you might not see him for a little bit and then he makes a huge impact.
"You can bump him and try to stop him, but over an 80-minute span, you can't."
Top-seeded DeSales never was threatened after Francisco's goal, as it defeated the eighth-seeded Hawks 7-0 and went on to win its fifth consecutive district championship on Oct. 27, defeating fourth-seeded Bloom-Carroll 5-0 at Wellington.
Francisco had a team-high 11 goals and eight assists through 19 games, and DeSales was 16-3 before playing Warsaw River View in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Coshocton.
Francisco, a junior, feels he has thrived throughout the last two years while the spotlight was on players such as Hector Gomez, the Division II state Player of the Year in both 2016 and 2017 who now plays at Ohio Wesleyan, and Gomez's younger brother, senior midfielder Cristian Gomez, who is the Division II district Player of the Year this season.
"I like when I'm quiet and no one's really watching me," said Francisco, who scored 14 goals as a freshman and nine as a sophomore. "I think maybe I have been under the radar a little bit, but I kind of like that. I might not be the top player, but people are surprised to see how I play and that's when they start paying attention to me. They might come toward me and that opens up space for everybody else.
"(Defenders) start getting more tired and I don't really get that tired. They get slower and I stay the same. Outside backs sometimes have to switch up to keep up with me."
Romanelli rarely has put Francisco at forward, but occasionally has moved him into the defense depending on situational needs.
"He's grown into his role," Romanelli said. "Jack can play a lot of positions. I think at times he'd rather be up top and he could be dangerous there, too, but when you have your back to the goal, you're not as dangerous. With his speed, it's stupid to have his back to the goal. I think you're basically helping the opponent in that case. But he can turn and go at any minute. He's a big, big part of our plan this year."
In the district final, Mike Cockerell had two goals, Cristian Gomez and Cesar Ramirez each scored one and the Stallions benefited from an own goal. Goalkeeper Thomas Sauer made six saves.
The DeSales-River View winner plays Albany Alexander or Athens in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 3, at a neutral site. The regional champion faces Bexley, Cincinnati McNicholas, Cincinnati Summit Country Day or Tipp City Tippecanoe in a state semifinal Wednesday, Nov. 7, at a neutral site. The state final is Nov. 10 at Mapfre Stadium.
Before Oct. 31, DeSales had outscored its past 10 tournament opponents 60-0.
"We've been passing very well," Francisco said. "We've had opportunities for midfielders to go down the line and make an impact."
Shoemaker finishes season at regional
John Shoemaker of the boys cross country team came up less than 15 seconds shy of reaching the Division II state meet, finishing 43rd (17 minutes, 31.9 seconds) of 181 runners at regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North.
The top seven teams and top 28 individuals advanced to state Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway. Heath's Preston Pethtel (17:17.2) earned the final individual state berth.
Coach Ben McGinnis said that Shoemaker, a junior and the Stallions' only regional qualifier, spent some time in the spotlight last week, even if unwillingly.
"He is not used to this attention," McGinnis said. "We had a pep rally at school and he got called down to be honored. He's a soft-spoken guy. It's nice to see him get a spotlight. He just puts the work in and does what he needs to do. ...
"He ran hard the whole way through, but this was a hard-fought race all the way around. We're proud of him. Hopefully, he is proud."
Shoemaker was the top runner most of the season for the boys team, which loses only two seniors from its top seven in Ian McCandlish and Jonathan Pusateri. The girls team expects to return six of its top seven, including its usual lead runner in junior Anya Vanasdale as well as other top runners in junior Cate Leithauser and sophomores Bre Callahan and Gracey Wilson.
"The program is in a good place," McGinnis said. "We're a young program. The season was a lot about learning and putting us in a good place for next year."
Although McGinnis is not returning as track and field coach in the spring in order to spend more time with his family, he said he plans to return as cross country coach next year after originally not planning to do so. Tim Jewett, who was co-coach along with McGinnis last spring, is taking over the track program.
Volleyball team's title streak snapped
For the first time since 2010, the girls volleyball team fell short of a district championship.
Seeded 11th, DeSales lost to undefeated and top-seeded Olentangy Liberty 25-11, 25-17, 25-18 in a Division I district final Oct. 27 at Franklin Heights to finish 16-9 overall.
Junior outside hitter Emma Brown had nine kills, two aces and two blocks, junior setter/outside hitter Bella D'Amico had eight kills and 17 assists and senior defensive specialist Lainey McGonigle had 20 digs for the Stallions.
DeSales advanced to the district final by sweeping ninth-seeded Dublin Scioto 25-20, 25-23, 25-20 in a semifinal Oct. 23 at Franklin Heights.
The Stallions had been seeking their eighth consecutive district championship overall and sixth in a row in Division I. This was their ninth consecutive district final appearance.
DeSales went 6-2 in the CCL to tie Hartley and Watterson for the league championship, ahead of fourth-place Ready (2-6).
Brown finished with a team-best 239 kills and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district. D'Amico was second on the team with 158 kills and was first-team all-league and all-district, and McGonigle had a team-high 354 digs and was second-team all-league.
Sophomore middle blocker Avery Boyd also was second-team all-league.
Other starters eligible to return include sophomores Bridget Javitch (defensive specialist) and Emily Schweitzer (middle blocker).
Football season ends with loss to Eagles
Needing a win and some help to make the Division III, Region 11 playoffs, the football team came up short on its end of the scenario, losing 21-14 at Watterson on Oct. 26 in its regular-season finale.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak in the series for the Stallions, who finished 5-5 overall and 1-2 in the CCL. The Eagles also finished 5-5 overall and placed second in the CCL at 2-1, behind Hartley (3-0).
DeSales tied Watterson at 7 in the first quarter on a 37-yard run by quarterback Joey Velazquez but trailed 14-7 at halftime.
After tying the score in the third quarter on a 2-yard run by Velazquez, the Stallions gave up a 1-yard touchdown run to Eagles quarterback Grant Horvath -- his third score of the game -- with 8:57 left.
DeSales moved to the Watterson 35-yard line with 1:31 remaining, but Velaquez threw incomplete on fourth-and-8.
"The turnovers and penalties hurt us," coach Ryan Wiggins said. "They made more plays overall than we did, and it was a tough back-and-forth game."
Velazquez finished with 28 carries for 162 yards.
Owen Faulkner had nine tackles and Anthony Sciarroni had six to lead the Stallions' defense.