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Alter football: Top 7 players in Knights history

Alter doesn’t have a home football field, which explains why every game day begins with a bus trip. But that hasn’t prevented the Knights from being the area’s most dominant high school football team since 2000.

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That would coincide with the run of head coach Ed Domsitz, the dean of area coaches who’ll enter his 43rd season as a head coach later this month. Most of those seasons have been in two stints at Alter (244-62 record in 25 combined seasons). He’s also coached at Trotwood-Madison and Northmont (319-145 career record).

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A veer offense, stingy defense and senior-dominated teams are a given at Alter. So is contending for a GCL Co-Ed North title and advancing to the postseason.

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The Knights own a streak of 16 straight playoff appearances and are 131-16-1 in the last 11 seasons. In that span they’ve won two state titles (2008-09), had three state runner-ups and lost just one game five times. There’s no beating that.

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That success has not gone unnoticed. Domsitz will be among five others in the 49th class of coaches to be inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame next June at Columbus.

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“We try to do things right,” Domsitz said prior to last season. “You do it for a variety of reasons. You’ve got to love the game. If it’s a struggle of getting up and coming to work every day, certainly at my age, with the lack of energy at times, it wouldn’t be worth it. You look at the people who are involved, whether it’s the kids or parents of the kids, the coaches and the men you coach with. That’s all part of it and what makes it special.”

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Here’s who we consider the all-time seven best football players at Alter High School in a continuing series. Have something to say about this alphabetical list? Email your comments to sports@coxohio.com.

Location: Kettering, Montgomery County.

Type: Private, operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Affiliation: Greater Catholic League, Co-Ed North Division.

Division: D-III, Region 12.

1. Chris Borland, RB/LB, 2009 graduate: As intriguing as he was a big hit, first at Alter, then Wisconsin and finally with the San Francisco 49ers. The brightest star in a shining collection on the D-IV state title team of 2008. First became an internet sensation after leaping over Fairmont’s offensive line and for a somersault tackle. Also a force at running back and a 60-foot shot putter. Eschewed Ohio State University to follow his family roots to Wisconsin, where he was the Big Ten freshman of the year and defensive player of the year as a senior and fan favorite. All-American linebacker by at least five different associations as a senior.

Undersized at 5 feet 11 and 248 pounds at his largest, drafted in the third round by the 49ers in 2014. Started just eight games, but led 49ers with 108 tackles as a rookie. The NFL’s defensive rookie of the month for November that season, also had two INTs and one sack. Citing head trauma concern, by the following March he had retired from football, giving back a near-half million signing bonus. The kickback from teammates and 49ers administration was divided. Labeled the sport “inherently dangerous” during a CBS News interview.

Knights' main man reflects on 42 seasons as a head coach.

2. Jeff Graham, QB/DB, 1987: Labeled by many the area’s most gifted high school player. Used as a running back, receiver and defensive back for the Knights, switched to QB as a senior. That was an All-Ohio season, as he was in basketball. Recruited by Earle Bruce but played for John Cooper as a receiver at OSU. Could have played hoop anywhere at that level. A three-year starter, he was captain and MVP of the Buckeyes as a senior.

Jeff Graham had his best season in the NFL as a member of the Chicago Bears in 1995 when he caught 82 passes for 1,301 yards. (Getty Images)

Drafted by the Steelers in the second round of the 1990 draft, also played for Bears, Jets, Eagles and Chargers in an 11-season career. Had 542 catches for 8,172 yards and 30 TDs. Best season was with Bears in 1995: 82 catches for 1,301 yards and four scores.

Took over as Trotwood-Madison’s head football coach in 2014, succeeding former Bears teammate Maurice Douglass. Since he’s been part of the coaching staff, Rams have mounted a current seven-year streak of playing in D-II or D-III state semifinals. Led Trotwood to a D-III state runner-up last season.

New York Jets center Nick Mangold (74, Alter) and kicker Mike Nugent (Centerville) leave the field after beating the Oakland Raiders, 23-3, to make the playoffs during NFL football Sunday, Dec. 31, 2006 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

3. Nick Mangold, OL/DL, 2002: All-Ohio as a two-way lineman at Alter who also excelled at wrestling and track and field (shot put). At 6-4 and 300 pounds, played meaningful minutes as a true freshman at OSU. Eventually anchored the Buckeyes offensive line at center, getting 33 starts. Draft stock rocketed after a dominating performance in the 2006 Senior Bowl. Taken in the first round by the Jets. Responded with seven Pro-Bowl seasons from 2008-11 and 2013-15. Has started all 164 NFL games he’s played in. Placed on IR last December following an ankle injury and released by the Jets in February after 11 seasons. At 33, has not announced his retirement from football.

03/22/03 Akron St. V-St. M's LeBron James hugs Alter's Doug Penno after winning the Div. II State Finals on Saturday evening. SHILOW CRAWFORD III

4. Doug Penno, RB, 2003: Long (6-5) and lean (200 pounds), Penno established Alter records for career rushing yards (3,289), total yards (4,731) and points (278). He surpassed 2,000 yards rushing as a senior. Conceded Domsitz to DDN staffer Kyle Nagel in 2011: “If not the best running back, one of the top two or three I’ve ever coached.” Also a three-year starter in basketball. As a senior played on the D-II state runner-up Knights who lost by four points to LeBron James and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in 2003. Played basketball at Miami. Afterward bulked up to 250 pounds in an effort to land a spot with the Bengals as a free agent tight end.

Orthopedic Consultant for the University of Dayton Athletics Dr. Tim Quinn talks with Associate Head Athletic Trainer Nate Seymour during the Flyers basketball game against Duquesne. Staff Photo by Teesha McClam

5. Tim Quinn, OL/DL, 1969: You better know him as Dr. Quinn of Far Oaks Sports Medicine Orthopedists and the Kettering Physician Network. Before he became a go-to surgeon he put an upstart Alter football on Chaminade’s checklist by excelling as a two-way lineman. Also a 60-foot shot putter, took that rugged football talent to Dayton, where he toggled between defensive tackle and linebacker from 1969-72 for then-coach John McVay, who was better known as the mastermind – along with Bill Walsh – for five Super Bowl winners with the 49ers. Quinn still toils for the Flyers as a team doc for football and basketball.

E.L. Hubbard photographyJim Tressel, John Cooper, and Jerry Rudzinski talk football, specifically, The Ohio State football, at Wright State's Nutter Center Tuesday, May 4, 2010.

6. Jerry Rudzinski, QB/LB, 1994: A rare quarterback/linebacker combo who excelled at both. A team captain as a senior linebacker on John Cooper’s final OSU team in 1998 that also featured LB Andy Katzenmoyer, LB Na’il Diggs, CB Nate Clements, DB Antonine Winfield, DB Ahmed Plummer and DB Damon Moore. Regularly heard on many radio shows about OSU football.

7. Malik Zaire, QB, 2013: As an Alter senior the lefty threw for nearly 2,000 yards, ran for 1,120 yards and accounted for 33 TDs. Seemed destined for the same kind of success at Notre Dame, especially after being named MVP in a 31-28 defeat of LSU in the 2014 Music City Bowl. Fractured an ankle in Game 2 of the 2015 season and couldn’t unseat DeShone Kizer afterward. Transferred to Florida as a fifth-year graduate for this coming season.

Alter running back Nick Coleman squares off against Thurgood Marshall defender Michael Ivy (14). Alter defeated Thurgood 42-14 in a high school football game at Welcome Stadium on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Honorable mention: Austin Boucher, QB, 2009; Brad Cash, 2007; Nick Coleman, RB/DB, 2014; Jim Ehrensberger, 1974; Danny Fortener, 2005; Chris Finke, WR, 2015; Bobby Getty, 2002; Kevin Griffith, DE, 1978; Jim Harnett, WR, 1985; Dusty Hayes, QB, 2015; Mike Hogan, LB, 1967; Eric Laumann, QB, 2003; John McVay, 1971; Tim McVay, 1974; Zane Pitzer, QB, 2011; T.J. Poelking, 1987; Matt Riazzi, 1989; Chris Roark, 2007; Mike Rose, 1996; David Rueth, LB, 2017; Bill Siewe, OL/DL, 1976; Tony Spencer, 1987; Jim Stangle, OL/DL, 1966; Jay Tant, TE, 1996; Joe Thuney, OL, 2011.

FACEBOOK: For more high school sports you should like Marc Pendleton

»PHOTO GALLERY 

Alter's Malik Zaire gains yards on Purcell Marian at Springboro High School on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. Teesha McClam/Dayton Daily News

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