The DeSales High School football team heads into the offseason after posting just the second non-winning season in 12 years under coach Ryan Wiggins and with its blossoming quarterback still riding a scooter because of an injury that occurred in late September.
Correction: An earlier online version and print version of this story omitted senior Max Irion from the "Seniors lost" entry in the "At a glance" box and had the incorrect number of seniors in the photo caption. The Stallions had 20 seniors not 19.
It's not the situation the Stallions envisioned after opening Aug. 25 with a 35-0 win over 2017 playoff qualifier Dayton Dunbar and winning 32-22 at Lancaster, a Division I program that went on to share the OCC-Ohio Division title, on Aug. 31 to start 2-0.
To be sure, though, players such as junior quarterback Reno Godfrey are feeling motivated to help the Stallions bounce back next year after finishing 5-5 overall and missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
"We're super optimistic about (next season)," Godfrey said. "We're returning a lot of skill players. All we need to do is keep working in the offseason."
Godfrey, who joined the program this season after previously playing for Westerville North, completed 65 of 102 passes for 940 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception before sustaining a season-ending leg injury in a 35-14 loss to Covington (Kentucky) Catholic on Sept. 21. He also rushed for 152 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries.
The Stallions bounced back to beat St. Charles 35-7 on Sept. 28 and Terre Haute (Indiana) North Vigo 33-15 on Oct. 5 but lost their final three games, including losing to Hartley (Oct. 12) and Watterson (Oct. 26) by 21-14 scores to finish 1-2 in the CCL.
Junior wide receiver Owen Faulkner, junior running back Jaylen Ball and sophomore running back Quintell Quinn also are key skill position players eligible to return.
Faulkner finished with 18 receptions for 307 yards and three touchdowns, Quinn rushed for 227 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries and Ball had 56 carries for 314 yards and two scores.
Juniors Cole Potts and Frank Sciarroni are eligible to return on the offensive line.
"Reno played half the season, Owen Faulkner will be back at wide receiver and Quintell Quinn and Jaylen Ball were two running backs that did quite a bit for us," coach Ryan Wiggins said.
Quinn also was among the team's top defensive players at linebacker, totaling 84 tackles and 11 tackles for loss. Ball added 32 tackles and seven tackles for loss at linebacker and Potts and Sciarroni were key players on the defensive line.
Faulkner should be the top returning defensive back after having 42 tackles and one interception, while junior Mason Rickens also returns in the secondary.
Junior kicker Randy Tawiah made 26 extra points.
The biggest loss among the 19 seniors will be Joey Velazquez, a Michigan recruit who rushed 160 times for 917 yards and 13 touchdowns, had 14 receptions for 103 yards and led the defense with 76 tackles and 20 tackles for loss.
Velazquez also filled in at quarterback after Godfrey's injury, throwing for 134 yards and a touchdown.
Other key seniors included Barron Froehlich (OL/DL), Carter Hilleary (WR/DB), Bo Hobgood (OL/DL), Rodas Johnson (DL/OL), Chris Karras (TE/DL), Robert Robinson (WR/DB) and Anthony Sciarroni (WR/DB).
Anthony Sciarroni had 19 receptions for 340 yards and five touchdowns on offense, 60 tackles and an interception on defense and averaged 33 yards per punt.
Robinson had four interceptions and seven pass break-ups, Karras had 29 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, Johnson had 32 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss and Potts had 4.5 tackles for loss.
Johnson, who holds numerous Division I scholarship offers, sustained an injury early in the Hartley game and missed the remainder of the season.
"We just have to try to get back to work," Wiggins said. "We didn't win enough games (to make the Division III, Region 11 playoffs), but we fought really hard and things didn't go our way. You only get so many opportunities and you have to try to make good on as many as you can."