Hartley at DeSales: Stallions deliver knockout punch to Hawks in Division III, Region 11 final
The two regular-season matchups in which the DeSales football team earned close victories over Hartley weren’t decided until each game’s final drive.
The Stallions made sure nothing similar took place place when the teams met for the Division III, Region 11 championship Nov. 6.
After beating the Hawks 24-21 on Sept. 11 at home and 16-14 on Oct. 2 on the road, top-seeded and host DeSales built a 17-point first-quarter lead and never let second-seeded Hartley back in the game.
With a 38-7 victory, the Stallions advanced to a state semifinal Friday, Nov. 13, against Kettering Alter at London.
“We executed really well,” DeSales coach Ryan Wiggins said. “Having played each other twice, we had a good idea of what could work and what couldn’t. I just thought we played a lot better. We made good on some things, converted some third downs. We just made more plays and did a good job on defense. When you get a little bit of a lead on them, they’re out of their game in terms of running the football.”
DeSales, which improved to 8-1 and reached a state semifinal for the first time since 2016, took advantage of the game’s first big break.
On fourth-and-2 from the Stallions’ 41-yard line, Hartley went for it but fumbled, with Matthew Stewart recovering.
DeSales senior running back Quintell Quinn scored the first of his four touchdowns on the next play, a 23-yard run that made it 10-0.
The Hawks, who were state semifinalists last season and finished 6-4, fell behind 17-0 when Stallions quarterback Whit Hobgood connected with Jordan Johnson for a 31-yard touchdown on the final play of the first quarter.
That score was set up when Hartley running back Sumo Kesselly was stopped for no gain by Jonathan Thompson and Billy Cain IV on fourth-and-2 from the Hawks’ 43.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Quinn late in the second quarter made it 24-7 and put the Stallions fully in control.
That drive began when Johnson returned a punt 29 yards to the Hartley 41.
“There’s nothing to be solemn about,” Hawks coach Brad Burchfield said. “They played a lot better than us. They coached better, they got better. We’ve improved tremendously through the year. They’ve improved even more. They’ve gotten a lot better and are going to be a tough team to beat down the stretch, there’s no question.
“We felt like obviously it was a debacle of monumental proportions. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but it was a turnover, a (long) punt return. ... We had them in third down, dead to rights, and they made some great plays. That’s what you’ve got to do to win the championship and run away from someone and that’s what they did.”
Alter enters the state semifinal matchup with the Stallions at 8-2. The winner plays Chardon or Tiffin Columbian on Nov. 20, 21 or 22 for the state championship at Fortress Obetz.
The Stallions’ biggest task likely will be stopping Alter senior running back Branden McDonald, who rushed for 168 yards and one touchdown in a 35-21 win over Hamilton Ross for the Region 12 title.
It marked the 12th regional championship for the Knights, who were 10th in the final state poll while the Stallions were eighth.
Stewart is confident in his team’s defense after it held Hartley to 162 yards of offense and also got an interception from Thompson in the fourth quarter.
“With this being the third time playing them, we knew it was going to be tough,” Stewart said. “We all just did our jobs, went out there and played and had the right mentality the whole game and got the job done. We knew we had to come right out of the gate fighting as hard as we could and get rid of their momentum and that’s what we did.”