Tradition is a word that is tossed around a lot in sports but Delphos St. John’s exemplifies it in Ohio small-school football.
The Blue Jays are set to battle Carey in the regional semifinals and are aiming for their fifth state title in school history.
DELPHOS – There is just so much tradition at Delphos St. John’s.
The state record 57-game winning streak.
The four state titles.
The reputation for being one of the best small-school football programs in the state.
But that isn’t what drives the Blue Jays (9-2) as they continue down the tournament trail this week – this time a showdown with Carey (10-1) awaiting DSJ in a Division VI, Region 22 semifinal showdown at Kenton Friday night.
“I wouldn’t say that the team’s determination is all about winning another state title,” DSJ head coach Todd Schulte said. “Our determination is more toward people saying that we are a year or two away. These kids have worked really hard and they want that success now.”
DSJ last won a state championship in 2005 and this edition of the Blue Jays appears to have the talent in place to bring home a fifth crown.
“It was great to get that first win but we know we still have a lot of work to do,” said sophomore running back Jordan Leininger, who rushed for 163 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 24-7 victory over Arlington in the opening round of the playoffs. “We have to be ready to capitalize on every opportunity we get to score and come ready to play hard from start to finish.”
The Blue Jays will be up against a Carey team that relies heavily on the run. The Blue Devils rushed for 256 yards in their thrilling 35-28 win over McComb, the final four coming from Derek Stock on a touchdown run that propelled Carey into the second round. Stock scored three touchdowns in the win on a night when he rushed for 109 yards. But Schulte has a bigger concern than a talented core of running backs headlined by Stock.
“Our biggest concern is their size on the offensive line,” Schulte said. “They do a great job of moving people. It’s no secret that Carey wants to establish the run game.”
Carey’s defense isn’t bad either.
“Their linebackers seem to be very athletic,” Schulte said. “It is going to be a challenge for our offensive line to get them and cut them off. It is important that we control the offensive and defensive lines to have a chance to be successful.”
DSJ is a tough defensive team as well and Schulte has confidence that his players can get the job done.
“Having a defense that plays well takes some of the pressure off of the offense, which enables them to just play,” Schulte said. “Defense wins championships and we are confident our defense will step up on Friday.”
Playing in the rugged Midwest Athletic Conference, which also features powerhouses such as Coldwater and Marion Local, has helped prepare the Blue Jays for the grind of the postseason.
“Our league schedule does get us ready for the playoffs,” Schulte said. “Every Friday night we are seeing playoff caliber teams and we play in a lot of tight, physical games that we have learned from.”
Leininger said last Friday night that he is looking forward to keeping this season going.
“The playoffs are a lot of fun,” he said. “We just have to focus on what we need to do to be successful and everything will take care of itself.”