Alter seniors brought back winning mentality

CANTON — In August, the Alter High School football players set a goal to get back to the state championship game for the first time since 2018.

After back-to-back 6-6 seasons, Knights head coach Ed Domsitz admitted it may have been a lofty goal to attain — especially with a smaller senior class than normal.

The seniors, however, proved everyone wrong. After a 5-3 start, the Knights won seven straight games to advance to the Division IV state championship game, falling to defending state champion Cleveland Glenville 38-3 on Saturday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

“We’re just 11 guys that go out there and fight week-in and week-out,” said Alter senior Carter Sheets. “It’s a brotherhood like no other. I can’t believe it’s over.”

The senior class brought back Alter’s winning mentality, Domsitz said, advancing to the state title game for the sixth time in program history.

“This team brought that back,” Domsitz said. “From the beginning — they set the goal in August to win a state championship. I’m thinking, ‘OK, you’re coming off 6-6 and we don’t have 20 seniors. It’s a nice goal.’ As I have told them, how many teams in Ohio say that in August? Here we had an opportunity and we got this far. It’s been a great ride. I watched these players improve as a team. The sum is much greater than the parts. I think that’s one of the things that’s been outstanding.”

No one expected Alter to return to the state championship game this season, said Alter senior Andy Duplain, making the run even more special.

“From what we accomplished, I’m super proud of my team,” he said. “I love playing with this group of guys. It was a great season.”

The Knights lost three regular season games by 11 points and Domsitz knew his team would compete in the playoffs. They were dominant in five postseason victories, outsourcing their opponents 159-9 before falling to Glenville in the state final.

“We’ve got no seniors who have accepted or have been offered a D-I scholarship,” Domsitz said. “It’s a lot of kids who care for each other, have the right chemistry and just go out and play football and have fun doing it.”

The key has been their willingness to do whatever it takes to win, said Alter senior Michael Russ.

“We just keep getting after it no matter what the score says, no matter who the team is, how they’re ranked,” he said. " We’re just going to go out there like they’re the same team, we’re just going to keep getting after it.”

Alter senior Jake Noga praised the younger players on their team for stepping up throughout the season.

“I’m proud of all the young guys, all the effort they give every game,” he said. “There’s a lot of sophomores and juniors out there and even a freshman that kept getting after it and played like seniors. Sometimes that’s all you can ask of them. I’ll be forever grateful for them and I know these guys will be too.”

The postseason run should provide even more motivation to return to Canton next year, Domsitz said. The returning players must follow the example set by this year’s senior class, he said.

“It should motivate them in the offseason that they must prepare the way these kids prepared,” Domsitz said. “Every one of them, most of them played another sport. If you look at our senior class that was the case, yet they were lifting, working out and that makes a difference. If those kids take from this what they should, then it is the preparation that leads up to it that allows you to get to this point. You just don’t line up and beat the teams we beat.”

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