Back in the postseason after a two-year absence, the DeSales football team must get past one of the state's seven remaining unbeaten Division II teams if it is to extend its season further.
The Stallions are the No. 7 seed for the Region 8 playoffs and will travel Friday, Nov. 8, to second-seeded Cincinnati Turpin, with the winner to face third-seeded Harrison or sixth-seeded Canal Winchester in a regional semifinal Nov. 15.
DeSales lost to Hartley 20-13 on Oct. 31 to finish 2-1 in the CCL and drop to 8-2 overall, while Turpin beat Milford 42-13 on Nov. 1 to improve to 10-0.
"They're a team every year that has a bunch of wins," coach Ryan Wiggins said of the Spartans. "They've got a lot of seniors and when you look at their scores, they're very dominant. We came in and recovered a little bit (the day after the loss to Hartley). You just kind of physically recover from a physical game, did some lifting and watched some film. You've got to put that game behind you. It's a tough one to lose because you felt like you had a chance, but playoffs provide new life."
The Stallions had won seven games in a row before falling to Hartley, a team they led 13-12 after getting a 5-yard touchdown run from Quintell Quinn with 5 minutes, 40 seconds remaining.
The Hawks marched 70 yards on the next series, capped by a game-winning 6-yard touchdown run by Jalan January.
January rushed for 255 yards and two scores on 35 carries to lead Hartley, while Quinn had 28 carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns during blustery conditions that made passing a challenge.
Hartley got a safety in the first quarter and led 9-0 early in the first quarter before the Stallions scratched their way back into it.
DeSales committed three turnovers in addition to the poor snap on a punt that resulted in the safety.
"We had the ball in or around the red zone three times and weren't able to get anything out of it," Wiggins said. "The safety, obviously, put us in a little bit of a hole, but it was a hard-fought game. We had four turnovers and lost by a touchdown, and with the missed red-zone opportunities, you're probably not going to beat a real good team doing that."
Turpin is in the playoffs for the 10th time in 14 seasons but won its only regional title in 2006.
In 2016 when the Spartans made their previous playoff appearance, they also went 10-0 in the regular season but lost to eventual state champion Cincinnati LaSalle in a Region 8 semifinal to finish 11-1.
LaSalle is the No. 1 seed for Region 8 this season with an 8-2 record.
Turpin has beaten only one team that made the playoffs but got a boost in playoff points because of four wins over Division I programs that went 5-5 or worse.
The Spartans pass the ball more on average than most of the opponents the Stallions have faced this season.
Senior quarterback Justin Silverstein is 157-for-253 passing for 2,291 yards with 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions and has rushed for 305 yards and six touchdowns.
Senior running back Reece Evans has 1,001 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on 100 carries and senior Miles Molloy (410 yards, 2 TDs) and junior Kaidan Naughton (511 yards, 9 TDs) also have been key runners.
The Spartans' receiving threats include Logan Hurley (48 receptions, 633 yards, 7 TDs), Naughton (32 receptions, 502 yards, 6 TDs), Josh Bell (27 receptions, 408 yards, 8 TDs) and Max Gundrum (30 receptions, 411 yards, 3 TDs).
Among the top defensive players for Turpin are linemen Keegan Slaney (8 sacks) and Will Myres (5.5 sacks) and linebacker Phil Messerly (6.5 sacks).
"It looks like they've got a really good quarterback," Wiggins said. "They've got to be really good on both sides of the ball. It's all about correcting your mistakes and regardless, when playoff time comes, if you don't execute, you're going to be done.
"We're playing a team that's 10-0 and has been very good and we've got to get our mistakes corrected and be ready for a big-time football game."