DeSales at Watterson: Stallions, Eagles open with CCL battle
With the Ohio High School Athletic Association announcing a six-game regular season and many teams converting to league-only schedules, it set up a quandary for CCL football programs like DeSales and Watterson.
The conference elected for home-and-home series between its programs, although St. Charles will play DeSales, Hartley and Watterson only once apiece.
For the Stallions and Eagles, it will mark the first time that they'll play twice during the regular season, but it won't be the first time they've faced each other more than once in the same season.
That actually has happened seven other times, all taking place when the teams met in the regular season and in the playoffs.
The last time that occurred was in 2010, when Watterson beat DeSales 31-7 during the regular season and 14-7 in the first round of the Division III, Region 10 playoffs on the way to winning the state championship.
On Friday, Aug. 28, the Eagles will play host to the Stallions on their practice field, and the teams also will meet Sept. 18 at DeSales.
"Can't wait," DeSales senior linebacker Jason Velazquez II said. "It's always great to play CCL games and to open up with one and have as much on the line especially with the season format and getting to play them twice, it's definitely different."
Last season, DeSales beat Watterson 20-16 in Week 6 and went on to finish 9-3, making it to a semifinal in the Division II, Region 8 playoffs.
The Eagles finished 7-3 but beat only one team with a winning record and settled for 11th in Division III, Region 11 as the top eight teams qualified for the postseason.
This fall, every team can choose to compete in the playoffs.
Watterson led last year's game 16-6, but DeSales' Jordan Johnson scored on an 18-yard touchdown catch and intercepted a pass that set up a touchdown as his team rallied to win.
Johnson, who is a senior wide receiver and defensive back, and classmate Quintell Quinn, who rushed for 161 yards and one touchdown against the Eagles last season, again should lead the way for the Stallions.
"I'm happy (that) the kids (get to have a season)," Eagles coach Brian Kennedy said. "They've worked very hard and done everything we've asked. We'll be battle-tested for the playoffs."
By last season's end, much of DeSales' offense centered around the abilities of Quinn, who finished with 1,808 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on 258 carries.
DeSales could rotate junior Whit Hobgood and sophomore Nicky Pentello at quarterback.
Senior Nathan Barber is another who should see time at wide receiver beside an offensive line that returns a trio of key contributors in seniors Owen Kirk, Will Hast and Billy Cain IV.
Watterson counters defensively with an experienced secondary that features senior free safety Sam Intihar, who had four interceptions last season, and seniors Henry Blevins, Andrew Bettendorf and Tyler Young.
Senior nose tackle Tanner Mercer also is a returning starter.
Senior Nick Youell is expected to be a key player at linebacker and guard on the offensive line.
"I'm just happy we're having a season," Youell said. "Our team is looking really solid this year. This is my senior year and we're senior-heavy. We're feeling good."
Watterson returns one of central Ohio's better quarterbacks in senior Jake Hoying, who completed 181 of 320 passes for 2,056 yards with 13 touchdowns and also rushed for two scores last season.
Bettendorf (39 receptions), Young (39 receptions) and senior tight end Davis Boone (37 receptions) lead a strong group of receivers, with senior running back Cam Nickleson expected to lead the ground game. Nickleson rushed for 192 yards over the first five games last year but was not eligible for the season's second half because of the OHSAA transfer rule.
Quinn, Velazquez and junior Jonathan Thompson are returnees at linebacker for the Stallions, and Johnson is a returning starter at cornerback.
"We have some kids in some key areas and some questions in some key areas," DeSales coach Ryan Wiggins said.
"It's what do we want to be as an offense, and who fits best into that?"
DeSALES at WATTERSON
*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28
*Last meeting: 2019, DeSales 20-16
*Top Stallions: Nathan Barber (WR/DB), Billy Cain IV (OL/DL), Jackson Hartman (OL/DL), Jordan Johnson (WR/DB), Joshua Martin-Hayden (DL/OL), Quintell Quinn (RB/LB), Matthew Stewart (TE/DL/LS), Jonathan Thompson (RB/LB) and Jason Velazquez II (WR/LB)
*Top Eagles: Andrew Bettendorf (WR/DB), Henry Blevins (WR/DB), Davis Boone (TE/LB), Jake Hoying (QB), Sam Intihar (WR/DB), Cam Nickleson (RB/DB), Dom Orsini (DB), Nick Youell (OL/LB) and Tyler Young (WR/DB)