Will Shaffer stands out by necessity for the DeSales boys soccer team, in more ways than one.
Needing to fill the void after the Stallions lost 13 players from last year's Division II state semifinalist team to graduation, Shaffer, a senior midfielder, had 14 goals during the regular season, second on the team to Jack Francisco's 15.
Then there are Shaffer's cleats, covered in gold-colored leather.
"I wear a size-13 shoe and this is one of the only pairs I could find in that size," said Shaffer, a Wright State commit. "It's more by necessity."
Shaffer and Francisco, also a midfielder, were the only two starters back from last year. They were the Stallions' top two scorers through the regular season, having combined for 29 goals to lead DeSales to a 12-3-1 record before playing host to 49th-seeded Columbus South in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 15.
"We had to try to figure out how to play together more as a team than we had the Gomezes and the Romanellis here," assistant coach Ben Brooks said, referring to past standouts Hector Gomez and Antonio Romanelli, who led DeSales to three Division II state championships from 2014-17 and now play at Ohio Wesleyan. "The kind of player those guys were can take over a game and go get it done. Now, it's more by committee. It's late in the season, but I think we have it figured out."
Shaffer transferred from St. Charles before his sophomore year, when he played junior varsity. He stepped into a starting role last year.
When it came to improving his leadership skills, Shaffer said he looked to Gomez, a two-time state Player of the Year honoree who recorded 69 goals and 53 assists in four seasons.
"Hector was pretty much the perfect leader," Shaffer said. "He's a great player, obviously, but he demands so much of his teammates that you just know you will not let him down and he will not let you down. I try to emulate that. We're young. We start some sophomores and we've started (freshman forward) Zack Rennie the past couple games, but I've been here since my sophomore year and I saw when we won the state championship (in 2017) how important it was to have strong leaders if we were going to have any success."
Brooks did not shy away from saying Shaffer plays a huge role in the direction of the team.
"We knew Will had the potential, but this was going to have to be Will's team," Brooks said. "This year, it is sort of his team. He's a senior. He's stepped up. He's been through it."
Francisco said he and Shaffer's skills complement each other.
"We work off each other's strengths by using my pace and his amazing through balls. I can always rely on him giving me good passes," Francisco said. "Shaffer and I have been through a lot. We think people doubted us because we lost so much (from) last year, but we've just come together and helped each other out. We couldn't do it by ourselves."
Seeded ninth, DeSales opened the Division I district tournament at home against 49th-seeded Columbus South on Oct. 15. The winner plays 30th-seeded Licking Heights or 31st-seeded Westerville South in second round Thursday, Oct. 17, at the home of the better seed. That winner will face seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome, 27th-seeded Big Walnut or 34th-seeded Mifflin in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 22.
The district final is Oct. 26.
Shaffer hopes that a lengthy postseason run will allow him to reach his goal of scoring 20 times this season.
"It's still possible," he said. "But even moreso, giving goals for our team has been huge for me to be a playmaker and get other guys involved. The first couple games of the season, it was pretty much me and Jack scoring the goals and we weren't playing as well as we have been recently. We're more into a rhythm because everybody is getting involved."
Girls runners finish second in CCL meet
Josie Dages led four runners in the top 10 for the girls cross country team in the CCL meet Oct. 12 at Westerville Community Center, as the Stallions finished second (38 points) behind Watterson (37) and ahead of Hartley (53) and Ready (119).
Dages was third in 20 minutes, 28.03 seconds. Also scoring were Bre Callahan (fourth, 20:58.59), Audrey Callahan (sixth, 21:20.93), Gracey Wilson (ninth, 21:37.73) and Cate Leithauser (16th, 22:23.66).
In the boys race, John Shoemaker finished second (16:55.52) to lead DeSales to fourth place (71) behind Watterson (35), Hartley (46) and St. Charles (59) and ahead of Ready (155). The Eagles snapped the Cardinals' streak of 12 consecutive CCL championships.
Shoemaker was followed by Adam Weithman (15th, 18:21.36), Aidan Shannon (16th, 18:22.72), Nick Schetter (17th, 18:23.84) and Brendan Lackey (21st, 18:36.63).
Both teams will participate in district meets Saturday, Oct. 19, at Hilliard Darby.
The boys are in Division II, district 2, from which the top four teams and top 16 individuals advance to regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North. The girls are in Division I, district 2, from which the top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to regional.
Pancake ends golf season at district
Amanda Pancake of the girls golf team shot a 90 in the Division I district tournament Oct. 9 at New Albany Links to fall short of a state berth.
Pancake, a junior, finished 31st out of 54 individuals.
The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at Ohio State's Gray Course. Mount Vernon's Maggie Williams (74) and Grove City's Lizzie Saur (78) advanced as individuals.
All of the Stallions' lineup with the exception of senior Paige Verfurth is eligible to return, including juniors Faith Corn and Melina McSweeny and sophomore Lizzy Gutman.
DeSales went 6-0 in the CCL to win the league championship for the second consecutive year.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 16 -- Played 29th-seeded Hartley in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays at fifth-seeded Olentangy in second round Oct. 19. Second-round winner plays 10th-seeded Hilliard Bradley, 26th-seeded Delaware or 35th-seeded Mount Vernon in district semifinal Oct. 23. The Stallions are seeded 28th.
Oct. 16 -- Played 26th-seeded Licking Heights or 34th-seeded Eastmoor Academy in second round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 21st-seeded Newark, 22nd-seeded Hilliard Darby or
33rd-seeded Olentangy Berlin in district semifinal Oct. 22 at Whitehall. The Stallions are seeded second.