COLUMBUS – Much has happened over the past three decades.
Six different men, including two named Bush, have served as U.S. President. The advent and development of the Internet has revolutionized how the world communicates. The playing surface at Ohio Stadium has gone from artificial turf, to natural grass, and then back to turf again.
Also in that time, the St. Charles Preparatory School football team has won exactly zero games in its annual parochial meeting with St. Francis DeSales. That’s right, no misprint. The teams have met 30 times since 1976 without a victory for St. Charles.
During the period between ’77-’06, a stretch which has seen the Stallions capture three state titles and rise to be one of the state’s elite name in the sport, they had a complete stranglehold on their Central Catholic League neighbors to the south.
It is enough to give one a complex.
“Oh there’s a streak,” said St. Charles quarterback Zack Vesco with a sigh. “But it’s not one that we’re proud of.”
Running back Mark Heller was also very aware of the drought. He said it’s sometimes made harder to forget.
“A lot of people talk about it in the off-season,” he said. “We hear it at different events and games.”
Several of the Cardinal players mentioned basketball games as a time the DeSales student body will remind them of the current state of affairs on the gridiron.
“There are some chants,” Vesco said. “You’ll hear: ‘Let's play football,’ or something like that.”
“We just get a lot of grief about it,” Heller said.
Friday in Bexley, St. Charles’ will attempt again to snap its losing streak to DeSales. The Week 6 meeting is the first of three in the CCL’s mini-Silver Division and it provides the Cardinals an opportunity to make a statement regarding their progress under third-year head coach Ted Wierzbicki.
“It would show everybody what we’ve been doing here,” said defensive end Jeff Butler of a win this week. “It would prove that we can compete with anybody.”
Despite both teams entering the game at 5-0, St. Charles is still a decided underdog.
DeSales, ranked No. 3 in the D-II Ohio High/ONN Power Poll, has already posted wins over three D-I schools and has won its five games a combined 154-27.
The Stallions are big and athletic up front. And despite playing with its back-up quarterback the past two weeks, DeSales runs one of the most effective option offenses in Central Ohio. Backs Ryan Clark (311 yards, 5 TDs) and Nick Crawford (335 yards, 2 TDs) are both capable ball carriers. As a team DeSales averages nearly 7 yards per carry.
“It’s deceptive, there’s a lot of misdirection,” said Butler of DeSales’ double wing. “You have to read your keys on every play.”
By contrast, three of St. Charles’ wins have been by 8 points or less and its last two opponents had a combined record of 3-7.
Both teams were also 5-0 prior to the 2006 meeting. DeSales won by five touchdowns.
“We definitely know we're the underdog,” Heller said. “But we like that, it takes the pressure off us.”
St. Charles probably has the best offensive line it has had under Wierzbicki and it will take a strong performance by that unit to use clock and take pressure off the defense. The Cardinals preach smash-mouth run-first football and Heller and Vesco will have to rack-up first downs if the Cardinals are to have a realistic chance at a win.
“A mistake-free game,” Vesco said.
All the players said they are attempting to treat this week’s preparation like any other, making sure to keep the focus internal and away from past disappointments. As Heller pointed out: “We weren’t even alive for a lot of those games.”
But just moments later, the running back couldn’t help revealing just what a win against DeSales would mean.
“To come out and break the streak?” Heller pondered. “That would be greatest win in our program’s history”