Alter rides defense to second straight Division IV state championship


Alter won its second straight D-IV state title thanks to suffocating defense. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)

Area 51, Fort Knox and Kettering Alter’s defense. What are things that are impenetrable.

its season long trek back to the Division IV state championship game,
Alter’s defense deservedly stole the headlines. Saturday in the state
final, the Knights “D” delivered again.


CANTON – Area 51, Fort Knox and Kettering Alter’s defense. What are things that are impenetrable.

its season long trek back to the Division IV state championship game,
Alter’s defense deservedly stole the headlines. Saturday in the state
final, the Knights “D” delivered again as Alter claimed its second
straight state championship and wrapped a perfect season (15-0) with a
37-7 win over Chagrin Falls at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.

the Knights usually consistent offense sputtered against a solid
Chagrin Falls defense that forced five turnovers, Alter’s defense was
even more dominant.

The Knights, who came in allowing 139 yards and 6.7 points per game, held their 11th opponent this season to single digits. During its five-game postseason demolition, Alter allowed 20 points and scored 183.

think our defense did a tremendous job forcing turnovers and we needed
to capitalize at that point in time,” Chagrin Falls head coach Mark
Iammarino said. “When you have a veteran team like Alter that’s been
there before, if you don’t get to them fast it’s just a matter of time.
We had our opportunities but we only got one score out of the five
turnovers we forced. Credit to them defensively that they were able to
make that quick change.”

“Our defense has been getting most of
the notoriety this season and deservedly so,” Alter head coach Ed
Domsitz said. “I thought Chagrin Falls had the best offense we’ve seen
after watching them on film. They run the ball well, the throw the ball
well, they’ve got athletes and all those things. But I’ve watched our
defense all year and today they took it to another level.”

Falls (14-1) entered the state final averaging 356 yards (230 through
the air and 126 on the ground) and 33.8 points per game but didn’t get
anywhere near those numerical outputs.

Alter held the Tigers to
144 total yards (including 66 yards rushing on 32 carries), forced five
turnovers of its own and returned a third quarter interception (by
Thomas Armstrong) 29 yards for a TD. Senior linebacker Nolan Plate led
the attack with 11 tackles.

In the first half Chagrin Falls
managed two first downs and 43 total yards (13 of which came on the
last snap of the half) on 24 plays.

The Tigers lone score – a
5-yard run by Chris Gorman in the third quarter – came after an Alter
fumble on its own 16-yardline. A penalty also aided the short drive.

the 14 previous games we’ve played we’ve always had a speed advantage
on everybody and today we didn’t,” Iammarino said. “They ran sideline
to sideline on everything we had. It was difficult to get a rhythm as
to something we felt worked. They run to the football and they are
great tacklers.”

Alter’s ground attack, which was averaging 302
yards and featured four backs with over 700 each, managed just 91
yards on 27 carries in the first half. The second half was a different

After Chagrin Falls cut the lead to 9-7, Alter took the
ensuing possession and drove 80 yards in 10 plays (all runs). Senior
Cody Taulbee capped the drive with a 22-yard TD run. Taulbee, who led
Alter with 126 yards on 16 carries, added a 31-yard TD – his third of
the game – in the fourth quarter.

The Knights opened the scoring
in the first quarter after recovering a fumble on Chagrin Falls first
possession. The short drive (one yard on three plays) ended in a
30-yard field goal by Andrew DiMario. Taulbee punched in a 1-yard TD
run in the second quarter to make it 9-0 at half.

Alter ended the game with 318 total yards. It had 301 on the ground.

Defense, though, is what propelled the Knights to the title.

been a big discussion as to whether this defense or the 2006 or 2008
defense is the best in the history of Alter football,” Domsitz said.
“They certainly made a strong case today.”

After being prodded
for the right answer from his counterparts, Alter senior defensive back
and Wisconsin recruit Cody Byers stated his unit’s case: “If you’re
going by points, we gave up the fewest. It’s questionable, but I feel
like overall they may have had a little more size and we have more
speed. In football speed always wins. I think this season’s defense is
the best.”

Chagrin Falls agreed.

“This isn’t met to
slight anyone, but in the previous playoff games we felt like it was
nip and tuck,” Iammarino said. “There was a huge difference today
between them and all the other opponents we’ve played this year.
There’s no mystery as to why that team is state champions.”


season Alter selects something material to rally around. Last year it
was a hammer. This year? A battle axe. The team runs onto the field with
it before every game.

“Last year it was a hammer and the motto
was ‘Finish the Job,’” Taulbee said. “This year we figured the season
was going to be all about ‘Battling Back to the Top.’ We felt every
game was a battle and the season is a war. The axe symbolizes us
fighting every single week because we’ve got that big bulls-eye on our

If it weren’t for Alter athletic director Chris Hart, the Knights wouldn’t have had their axe on Saturday.

rigid preparation this week for the state final, someone forgot to pack
the axe. The team told Domsitz at the hotel on Friday that it was

Hart, who didn’t leave Dayton until this morning, was
able to transport the axe to Canton. It arrived in the locker room three
minutes before kickoff.

Said Domsitz, who had a feeling this
week this would happen: “I was just concerned because you don’t want to
mess up their psyche.”

Added Taulbee: “This week we won the war.”

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