As was the case last season, the DeSales High School football team's postseason hopes could come down to how it responds to a close Week 8 loss.
The Stallions lost to Hartley 21-14 on Oct. 12 and now must travel Friday, Oct. 19, to Cincinnati Winton Woods, which is 7-1 and is coming off a season in which it was the Division II state runner-up.
"They're 7-1 and they've got a lot of speed," coach Ryan Wiggins said. "We'll have to see who's available. The last couple weeks we've had to look at our roster and see who's available in terms of injury and kind of start over, and that's what we did (against Hartley)."
The latest question mark is senior two-way lineman Rodas Johnson, who suffered a right knee injury in the first quarter against Hartley and did not return. With scholarship offers from a list of schools that includes Penn State, Texas and Wisconsin, Johnson is one of the top uncommitted recruits from central Ohio in the 2019 class.
DeSales is 5-3 overall and 1-1 in the CCL and was projected to be ninth in Division III, Region 11 after its loss to the Hawks. Winton Woods is second in Division II, Region 8 and has won seven games in a row since losing its opener to Trotwood-Madison, 13-3 on Aug. 24.
Last season, the Stallions were 5-3 and in need of a win heading into their Week 9 matchup against the Warriors but lost 42-7. They lost to Hartley 23-21 in last year's Week 8 matchup.
To have a chance against Winton Woods, DeSales will need to build on its first-half performance against Hartley when it took a 14-0 lead and controlled the clock.
Against the Hawks, Joey Velazquez rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries while running the single-wing offense that DeSales has put in place since losing starting quarterback Reno Godfrey to a season-ending injury Sept. 21.
Velazquez threw a pair of incomplete passes on the Stallions' only attempts through the air against Hartley, which improved to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in the CCL.
Leading Winton Woods' offense is running back Miyan Williams, who has rushed for 1,516 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The Warriors also have a standout lineman in senior Anthony Booker Jr. (6-foot-4, 255 pounds), who has a list of 16 offers that includes Indiana, Maryland, Pittsburgh and most of the Mid-American Conference.
DeSales lost to Hartley for the third time in the last five meetings.
On Oct. 12, Hawks running back Jalan January scored on a late first-half touchdown run and Hartley put together a 15-play, 85-yard drive that took more than six minutes in the third quarter as it tied the score at 14.
Hartley's decisive touchdown was set up by a fumble recovery on a mishandled snap.
"We got a stop at midfield (early in the third quarter) and weren't able to do anything with it," Wiggins said. "The turnover really stands out."