Alter gets revenge, first state title with 21-6 win over Steubenville in D-IV final


Alter’s Chris Borland rushed for a game-high 130 yards and a TD in the D-IV state final. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)

Alter High School has a reputable trophy case that contains over 10 state championship trophies for boys soccer, boys basketball, girls basketball, volleyball and girls cross country.

Make room for another.

CANTONAlter High School has a reputable trophy case that contains over 10 state championship trophies for boys soccer, boys basketball, girls basketball, volleyball and girls cross country.

Make room for another.

Making its second appearance in the state football championships, Alter earned its first title on the gridiron Friday with a 21-6 win over previously unbeaten Steubenville in the Division IV state final at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.

“It means the world,” Alter senior Chris Borland said. “This isn’t just for the ’08 team, this is for any one who has ever played Alter football. It’s been too long.”

“You think about some of the teams that have been through Alter – especially recently – and when you’re a little kid they just seem like gods,” senior Phillip Sowar added. “To think now that we’ve won a state championship and we’re considered the best of all-time is just unreal. I’m at a loss for words.”

Said Alter coach Ed Domsitz: “It’s certainly the biggest win we’ve ever had.”

The Knights (13-2) extracted revenge on Big Red (14-1) for a narrow 34-33 loss in the 2006 D-III state championship in Massillon. Alter also improved to 1-3 against Steubenville, counting losses in the 1987 D-II state semifinals and 1972 regular season.

In the 2006 title game Alter fell behind big early and rallied only to see two missed PATs make the difference. This year the doubt was gone long before the final whistle.

Alter entered the contest averaging 43 points per game thanks mostly to a devastating rushing attack led by seniors Austin Boucher (QB), Borland (RB) and Justin Hall (RB) and junior Cody Taulbee (RB).

Friday, the quartet didn’t disappoint.

Boucher, a Toledo recruit, improved to 26-1 as a starter, completing 7-of-11 passes for 81 yards and a TD. He also rushed 19 times for 111 yards and a TD.

Borland, headed to Wisconsin, countered with a game-high 130 yards and a TD on 15 carries. Borland also caught Boucher’s TD pass.

Hall added 48 yards on nine carries and Taulbee chipped in 16 yards on four touches as Alter rolled up 305 yards on the ground. The Knights finished with 415 yards of offense.

Alter operated behind a huge offensive line led by three-year senior starter Evan Neff at center. Neff, the lone holdover from the 2006 starting line up, is headed to Ball State.

“Poise and leadership,” Borland said. “Austin runs the offense and we never get down. We always know that it’s just a matter of time with our line. We wear people down all game and it’s just a matter of time before we put points on the board.”

“They kept fighting,” Steubenville linebacker and West Virginia recruit Branko Busick said. “We fought too, but they kept swinging.”

Said Steubenville head coach Reno Saccoccia: “I feel standing here now that we didn’t defend the pitch well on the option and that was the difference in the game. That was the entire difference in the game. The big plays they got on that allowed them to keep the ball. We (were unable to get a) rhythm on offense.”

The Knights took a 7-0 lead when Boucher hit Borland for an 8-yard TD pass with 4:54 to go in the first half. Following a 3-yard Boucher TD run, Borland scored on a 21-yard run as Alter took command 21-0 with 10:47 to play.

Steubenville got on the board when standout junior QB Dwight Macon hit Trey Wiggins for a 33-yard TD pass with 9:43 left, but Big Red never seriously challenged thereafter.

Steubenville in fact had trouble generating anything all game against an Alter defense that held Big Red to single digit scoring for the first time in 70 games. Steubenville last failed to reach double-digits in a 47-7 loss to Cleveland Benedictine in the 2003 D-III state semifinals.

Big Red ended with 311 total yards, 138 of which came in the fourth quarter with the outcome decided.

Macon, one of the state’s top college prospects in the Class of 2010, completed 11-of-22 passes for 196 yards and a TD and also tossed an interception. He carried the ball 14 times for a team-high 68 yards, which were anything but easy. Macon actually ran for about 400 yards in the game, but most were sideline to sideline as he tried to elude Alter defenders and make things happen. More often than not, Alter’s defense – which featured 10 new starters when the season began and 11 after Week 2 with the loss of linebacker Collin Boucher – held tight.

With the loss Macon dropped to 26-2 as a starter.

“Their defense played better than our offense,” Macon said. “They came to play more than any other team we faced this year. They wanted it. Don’t get me wrong we wanted it too, but they had that little umpf at the end and they just kept on going, and going and going.”

Said Domsitz: “The big goal going in was to not let their quarterback take the game away from us. We weren’t going to try to sell the kids on stopping him completely. We just wanted to contain him and keep him out of the end zone.”

Steubenville, one of Ohio’s most storied programs and just one of three with over 700 wins (Canton McKinley and Massillon Washington are the others), failed in its attempt to win a fourth state title in its third different classification.

The Big Red won the D-II state title in 1984 and back-to-back D-III titles in 2005 and 2006.

It was just the fourth loss for Steubenville – against 80 wins – since the start of the 2003 season. Big Red owns six straight undefeated regular seasons.

“When you’re in a championship game you have to give a championship effort,” Saccoccia said. “You can give a championship effort and still come up short. All I know is we worked our tails off for 15 weeks to get here and all great things have to come to and end. Our trail ended tonight to a good Alter team.”

Alter’s title is the crowning achievement for a program on the rise. The Knights own 14 playoff appearances and five trips to the state semifinals, but since 2001 Alter has poured it on. The Knights are 88-18 since 2001 with two finals appearances in three years. The only thing between Alter and an undefeated season this year was two forfeit losses for playing an ineligible third string senior in the season’s first two games – blowout wins over Kettering Fairmont and Bellbrook.

Domsitz, in his second stint with the Knights, went 57-19 from 1981-87. After a run at Clayton Northmont, Domsitz returned to Alter prior to the 1999 season and went 6-11 in his first two years.

The rest is history.

“This whole season has been kind of our redemption season,” Neff said. “We got a second shot at Coldwater and now Steubenville. That one-point loss two years ago was heart-breaking. Now to come back and beat them by two touchdowns is unbelievable. It still hasn’t really sunk in.”

Maybe it will when the Knights walk by the trophy case.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *