When the current group of seniors competed for the DeSales freshman team, there were some games in which only 13 athletes dressed and players like Frank Sciarroni were called on to fill numerous positions.
There are 11 seniors on the Stallions' roster this fall, but those low numbers don't leave coach Ryan Wiggins overly concerned because of what he sees as strong sophomore and junior classes.
That being said, staying healthy appears critical for DeSales with so many players expected to play key roles on both sides of the ball.
The Stallions came up short of making the playoffs for the second consecutive season a year ago and finished 5-5 overall, but have made the postseason eight times under Wiggins while going 107-45 during his tenure that began in 2007.
"We're not very deep, but I like the way we're working," Wiggins said. "One thing I want to say about last year is that you look back at the record and there's disappointment, but I'm not disappointed at all with the way our guys fought. We lost one-score games to Hartley and Watterson, you learn from them, but you look forward. The reality is that there's a fine line and you've got to play with a sense of urgency. We're not spoiled with knowing we're going to get in. They know they have to make their way in."
A tougher schedule won't make the pursuit of the postseason an easy one.
The CCL has attempted to forge relationships with the Greater Catholic League (GCL) and the North Coast League (NCL) to help fill schedules, and the Stallions will face four other Catholic programs in addition to its CCL matchups. It went 1-2 in league play last fall to finish third behind Hartley (3-0) and Watterson (2-1) and ahead of St. Charles (0-3).
DeSales plays Division III state runner-up in Kettering Alter (Sept. 20) and another Division III playoff team in Middletown Fenwick (Sept. 27), both from the GCL. Also on tap is a matchup against perennial power Steubenville (Oct. 25) before closing the regular season Oct. 31 at Hartley.
The Stallions have just four home games and open Aug. 31 at Huber Heights Wayne against Dayton Carroll, which went 6-4 last fall.
In addition, DeSales has been moved up to Division II, Region 8 after previously competing in Division III, Region 11.
One positive is that Wiggins has seen "hunger" from his players in the weight room as well as in practice since the Stallions ended last season with three consecutive losses.
"(Last season has) brought us even more motivation to want to fix the details," said senior two-way lineman Cole Potts, who has committed to play at James Madison University.
The return of senior Reno Godfrey at quarterback behind a line that will feature Potts and Frank Sciarroni is one reason for optimism.
Godfrey completed 65 of 102 passes for 940 yards with nine touchdowns and just one interception over the first five games before a season-ending leg injury in a 35-14 loss to Covington (Kentucky) Catholic.
Potts was fourth at the Division II state wrestling tournament at heavyweight and should line up at left guard. Junior Owen Kirk is expected to be the center, with Sciarroni and juniors Billy Cain IV, Jackson Hartman and Will Hast all filling out the other spots on the line.
Junior Matthew Stewart, who is the son of former Stallions standout and NFL player Matt Stewart, will line up at tight end or H-back depending on the formation, along with senior Dante Fuller.
The biggest loss to graduation was Joey Velazquez, a Michigan recruit who rushed for 917 yards and 13 touchdowns and filled in at quarterback after Godfrey went down.
Expected to lead the running game are senior Jaylen Ball, who rushed for 314 yards and two touchdowns, and junior Quintell Quinn, who ran for 227 yards and three scores.
Senior Owen Faulkner returns to lead the receiving corps after finishing with 18 catches for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
"(Our offense has) absolutely evolved," Wiggins said. "You have to make some tactical changes and utilize your personnel, get guys out into space, make them defend the entire field laterally."
Quinn returns to lead the defense after finishing with 84 tackles and 11 tackles for loss.
He'll be joined at linebacker by Ball, who had 32 tackles and seven tackles for loss. Jason Velazquez, who is Joey Velazquez's brother, is someone Wiggins considers an "up-and-coming player" who also should be at linebacker, along with senior Mason Washington and sophomore Jonathan Thompson.
Junior Obed Achirim is another talented athlete who could figure in the mix at linebacker.
Both Potts and Sciarroni were key players on the defensive line, and Cain IV also gained experience up front last season.
Senior Isaiah Thomas and junior Jordan Johnson are at cornerback and Faulkner is a returnee in the secondary. Junior Corey Moriarty is expected to see time in the defensive backfield as well.
Stewart returns at long snapper and senior Randy Tawiah is back at kicker after making 26 extra points.
Faulkner is the leading candidate to field punts, with Quinn also an option on the kickoff and punt-return teams.
Quarterbacks: *Reno Godfrey (sr., 6-1, 190), Corey Moriarty (jr., 6-0, 165)
Running backs: *Jaylen Ball (sr., 5-9, 195), *Quintell Quinn (jr., 6-1, 185), Jonathan Thompson (so., 6-1, 195)
Wide receivers: *Owen Faulkner (sr., 5-11, 170), Obed Achirem (jr., 6-2, 195), Nathan Barber (jr., 5-10, 175), Jordan Johnson (jr., 5-11, 160)
H-Back/Tight ends: Dante Fuller (sr., 5-11, 190), Matthew Stewart (jr., 6-2, 180),
Linemen: *Owen Kirk (jr., 5-10, 210), *Cole Potts (sr., 6-2, 285), *Frank Sciarroni (sr., 6-0, 230), Billy Cain IV (jr., 6-2, 250), Jackson Hartman (jr., 5-10, 220), Will Hast (jr., 6-4, 210)
Linemen: *Cain IV, *Potts, *Sciarroni, Harman, Hast, Stewart
Linebackers: *Ball, *Quinn, *Jason Velazquez (jr., 5-10, 185), *Mason Washington (sr., 6-0, 205), Achirim, Thompson
Secondary: *Faulkner, *Johnson, *Moriarty, *Isaiah Thomas (sr., 5-10, 160)
Kicker: *Randy Tawiah
Punters: *Nicholas Trostel (jr., 5-10, 140), Nathaniel Wallace-Dilling (so., 5-10, 140)
Returners: *Faulkner, *Quinn
Long snapper: *Stewart
(*Denotes projected starter)