Since Ryan Wiggins took over as coach in 2007, one opponent the DeSales High School football team has beaten with consistency has been Watterson.

It hasn't always been this way considering Watterson leads the all-time series 35-26-1, but the Stallions have won five meetings in a row and are 11-3 under Wiggins against the Eagles, including 2-1 in the playoffs.

Watterson won't make the postseason for the third consecutive season, but Brian Kennedy is looking forward to his second matchup in the series as coach.

Kennedy is a 1992 Watterson graduate whose team lost to the Stallions 41-7 last fall.

"This is 'the game,'" Kennedy said. "You try to keep them focused on the task at hand, but as soon as (our) game was over (Oct. 19), it's DeSales week."

The Eagles are 4-5 overall and 1-1 in the CCL and the Stallions are 5-4 and 1-1 entering their matchup Friday, Oct. 26, at Watterson.

The contest has added meaning for the Stallions considering they remain in the playoff hunt. DeSales was projected to be 10th in Division III, Region 11 despite losing back-to-back games to Hartley (21-14 on Oct. 12) and Cincinnati Winton Woods (28-14 on Oct. 19). The top eight teams in each region make the playoffs.

A win over the Eagles, combined with a loss by Jackson to Chillicothe and a few other matchups turning out DeSales' way could get the Stallions back into the postseason after finishing 10th in Region 11 last season.

Under Wiggins, DeSales has missed the playoffs just three times in 11 seasons and had its only non-winning season in 2012 when it finished 5-5.

"It's a big one with Watterson," Wiggins said. "It's an arch-rival game and the playoffs are still very much in the picture."

Injuries to top players on both teams brings a twist to the matchup.

DeSales had been throwing the ball with success behind junior quarterback Reno Godfrey through the first four games, but he suffered a season-ending injury Sept. 21 during a 35-14 loss to Covington (Kentucky) Catholic.

Although the Colonels are 9-0 and Hartley and Winton Woods are 7-2 and 8-1, respectively, the Stallions have remained competitive because of the versatility of senior Joey Velazquez.

The team leader in rushing yards with more than 700, Velazquez has lined up at quarterback the past four games. He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Sciarroni and rushed 24 times for 75 yards against Winton Woods while Quintell Quinn also had a rushing touchdown against the Warriors.

Running back Miyan Williams had 25 carries for 291 yards and a touchdown and MiChale Wingfield threw for three scores for Winton Woods, last year's Division II state runner-up.

"The kids played hard," Wiggins said. "We fought as hard as we could. At the end of the day, their running back made some plays, broke some tackles. We'd still like to put up some more points in the second half. We played really hard and have just got to keep trying to improve.

"It's been a tough road. Some of the games we've lost have been to tough teams and we've had a lot of adversity. The playoffs are a chance for a new life, so we're going to keep plugging away, try to beat Watterson and see where it shakes out. (Watterson is) improved. They've played a good schedule and are definitely a team on the rise."

Watterson lost sophomore quarterback Jacob Hoying to a season-ending injury Oct. 5 in a 24-21 loss to Youngstown Ursuline. The Eagles turned to senior Grant Horvath behind center and beat St. Charles 37-6 on Oct. 12 and Logan 14-0 on Oct. 19. Horvath has completed 32 of 47 passes for 516 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions and has rushed for 182 yards and two scores.

Thomas Bair has rushed for 683 yards and six touchdowns and has 30 receptions for 326 yards and two scores.

Davis Boone (33 receptions) and Andrew Bettendorf (28 receptions) have been among the Eagles' top receivers along with Antonio Auddino, who has 32 catches but is out with an injury.

Defensive back Dominic Dean is another who won't play after getting injured during a recent practice.

"We're so banged up," Kennedy said. "I'm probably going to have seven starters out. (DeSales is) good. They're well-coached and very physical up front. They're in a similar situation we are with Velazquez, a senior captain who they've asked to play quarterback. He's a dangerous runner. It's going to take everything we've got. They've played a really, really tough schedule."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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