DeSales defense reigns supreme, Stallions punch ticket to state


Chris Rock and the DeSales defense got pressure on Wyoming QB Kyle Seyfried all night (Photo by Stephanie Porter)

Clinging to a 3-0 lead at halftime against Cincinnati
Wyoming at Dayton’s Welcome Stadium, the DeSales offense clicked in the second
half to down the Cowboys 24-7 to advance to next week’s state championship game
in Massillon.

DAYTON – Ironically, the Division III state semifinal game
started off much like the season did for Columbus DeSales – not how the
Stallions wanted it to.

Clinging to a 3-0 lead at halftime against Cincinnati
Wyoming at Dayton’s Welcome Stadium, the DeSales offense clicked in the second
half to down the Cowboys 24-7 to advance to next week’s state championship game
in Massillon.

After stumbling out of the gates to start the season 2-2,
DeSales (11-3) has now won seven of its last eight games to reach the eighth
state title game in school history.

“You’re glad to be up and not down but we felt like we left
some points on the board by turning the ball over and giving up some big
third-and-long (plays),” DeSales head coach Ryan Wiggins said of the first half.
“We needed to just do the same things and do them a little bit better and that’s
what we did.

“It feels great. The state championship is the ultimate
prize in high school football. Everyone sets the goal to be there and there are
only a few teams that make it so we are happy to be there.”

Like its has done throughout the playoffs, the DeSales
defense dominated getting pressure on Wyoming quarterback Kyle Seyfried and
holding the Cowboys spread offense in check.

Junior defensive end Chris Rock had three sacks and a
batted pass leading a defensive line that owned the line of scrimmage battle. DeSales had five sacks overall.

“We harp on our defense and we try to do as much as we can
on defense. Sometimes our offense doesn’t start off like they want to and they
feed off our energy,” said Rock. “We were just trying to get pressure and that
was what we were harping on. Their quarterback is a great runner and we just
wanted to contain him but at the same time we wanted to get pressure and (tackle

DeSales held Seyfried to 41 yards on 23 carries and was
9-of-23 passing for 188 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Receiver Evan
Aleshire reeled in six catches for 157 yards a 68-yard catch and run for a

But that was about all Wyoming (13-1) could muster on the

“When everyone plays together it makes it easier,” Rock

Senior defensive tackle and Michigan State recruit Travis
Jackson agreed.

“The defensive line played great and Chris Rock had an
awesome game,” he said. “We just knew we needed to keep the quarterback
contained if we wanted to win this one.

“I was trying to get to the quarterback and he was beating
me there every time,” Jackson laughed. “But it is always great when your
teammates and celebrating after you get to him. It was a big night for the
defensive line.”

The DeSales defense has steadily improved through the
postseason allowing 24, 14, 10 and seven points, respectively, with just two
touchdowns coming against the first team unit.

Friday’s performance was arguably its best in the playoffs.

“Our defense did a real good job and we were able to hold
them in check,” said Wiggins. “They’re dangerous because that quarterback can do
some much with his feet. But our guys did what they have to do and made the
plays when they had to make them.”

The DeSales triple-option offense was sparked by a 67-yard
Adam Griffin run on the Stallions second drive of the third quarter setting up
an eventual 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Nick Gentile.

“Griffin is a very explosive player and has big play
ability,” said Gentile, who tallied 136 yards rushing on 21 carries and two
touchdowns. “When you have a guy like that in the backfield you know you can
just hand him the ball and know he is going to get whatever you need to get. He
came up with the big play and that really got things rolling.”

Griffin had 106 yards rushing on 10 carries and sophomore
Warren Ball added 59 yards on eight carries and a 6-yard touchdown run in the
fourth quarter. 

“It is a great feeling. Through training camps and all
those early morning weight lifting sessions, this is what we dreamed about,”
Ball said. “To get the chance to finally do it, it’s amazing.

“I think there were a little bit of nerves early on and it
took time to get adjusted early on. Coach (Wiggins) talked about not getting
complacent and we made some things right and it worked out.”

DeSales, which claims three state titles, is back in the
state championship game for the first time since 2005 when the Stallions lost to
Steubenville 28-7.The last title for the Stallions came in 1998.

“I feel really good for our guys because we set our sights
on this being our goal and to actually do it is not the easiest thing to do
since only two teams get to the state championship,” Wiggins said. “It’s a great
feeling and I feel great for our seniors and all the work they have put in.”

DeSales will face Youngstown Cardinal Mooney Friday,
December 4 at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium at 11:00 a.m. Mooney
(14-0)cruised past Steubenville 45-7 Friday on the other side of the bracket.

DeSales traveled to Mooney in Week 2 and were turned away
21-14 as part of the rocky 2-2 start to the season.-

“We knew there would be some bumps along the road but if
you can take those experiences and learn from them and get better as we were
able to do, then that is the ultimate goal – to play your best in November and
that’s what has happened,” said Wiggins.

The state title game berth is extra special for the
third-year head coach having played at DeSales and graduating from the Central
Ohio school in 1997.

“I am very humbled and very proud,” Wiggins said.
“Tradition at DeSales means a lot, especially for alums and the people that came
through the program like I did.”


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