The DeSales football team saw tangible progress in terms of limiting mistakes during a 36-21 victory over visiting Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin on Sept. 13.
Not taking a step back in that area likely is crucial if the Stallions are to handle their next test Friday, Sept. 20, at home against Kettering Alter.
The Knights, who are 3-0, have become one of the state’s most consistent powers since the programs last met in 2005, making the playoffs in each of the past 18 seasons with Division IV state titles in 2008 and ’09, a Division IV state runner-up finish in 2014 and a Division III state runner-up finish last year.
The Knights’ run of consecutive postseason berths began in 2001 when they lost to DeSales 20-17 in a Division III state semifinal before the Stallions lost in the state final a week later.
“When you play a team like (Alter), it’s going to be a very physical battle,” said coach Ryan Wiggins, whose team is 2-1. “They’re going to be very good up front, they’re going to run power and option. It’s a style.
“They’ve got really good players. I like all of their backs, but one in particular is one of the best in the state, and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. If they beat you 20-0, it’s like a blowout.”
The running back Wiggins was referring to is junior Branden McDonald, who scored 17 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,600 yards last season and has a scholarship offer from Toledo.
Alter has a new quarterback in senior Kale Steneman but figures to remain a state power for years to come as it continues to develop players like C.J. Hicks, a 6-foot-4, 202-pound sophomore who can be used at running back and wide receiver on offense in addition to being at defensive back and already has 17 Division I offers.
The Stallions bounced back from a 45-14 loss to Dublin Jerome on Sept. 6 by finishing with 295 yards of offense against NDCL, led by running back Quintell Quinn rushing for 106 yards and three touchdowns and adding four catches for 62 yards and quarterback Reno Godfrey completing 13 of 18 passes for 134 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to Jordan Johnson.
Isaiah Thomas and Mason Washington both had interceptions for the Stallions’ defense.
Senior Jaylen Ball, who missed the opening 35-28 win over Dayton Carroll on Aug. 31 with an injury, also got more involved offensively in his second game back, rushing six times for 23 yards and having one reception.
Also against NDCL, Randy Tawiah made field goals of 33, 30 and 37 yards.
“We played much cleaner,” Wiggins said. “We didn’t have turnovers, were able to get some defensive stops and got some good field position. Our kicking game was good. You always want to get touchdowns, but it’s nice to feel like you can come away with points. There’s still plenty to do and work on and the road is going to continue to get tougher, but we’re improving.”