High school football Week 9 preview: Personal connections add to Alter-Trotwood showdown

Alter's Branden McDonald tries to avoid a tackle by Dunbar's JaQuan Lusbourgh as he carries the ball. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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Alter's Branden McDonald tries to avoid a tackle by Dunbar's JaQuan Lusbourgh as he carries the ball. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Two of the Miami Valley’s top programs are set to meet for the first time Friday night when Trotwood-Madison plays host to Alter.

The matchup is not only a Division III, Region 12 quarterfinal but a homecoming for Alter coach Ed Domsitz.

“My four brothers were all better football players than I was, but we played football for Trotwood,” Domsitz said. “Not the same field — it was a field down in town — but nonetheless, we were Trotwood Rams, so I’ve heard from from some of my brothers. They’re rooting for Alter this week even though the great majority of the time they root for Trotwood.”

Whether rooting for their brother or their alma mater, the Domsitz boys have had a lot to cheer about for the past decade-plus.

Trotwood (4-0) is the defending state champion and has made the playoffs 12 years in a row. The Rams advanced to the state semifinals nine of the past 10 years, won it all in 2011 and ’17 and finished second four times in that span.

ExploreTrotwood starts title defense by rallying to beat Carroll

Alter (5-2) is in the playoffs for the 20th straight season and made the state semifinals four of the last 10 years and seven times since 2006. The Knights won it all in 2008 and ’09 while finishing second three other times.

While the Rams have played only four games because concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in Montgomery County caused the district to suspend extra-curricular activities in August, Domsitz said the Knights staff has a solid idea about what Trotwood coach Jeff Graham and his staff like to do.

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Trotwood-Madison's Delamarr Blanton runs against Carroll on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Trotwood. David Jablonski/Staff

Trotwood-Madison's Delamarr Blanton runs against Carroll on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Trotwood. David Jablonski/Staff
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Trotwood-Madison's Delamarr Blanton runs against Carroll on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Trotwood. David Jablonski/Staff

“He’s been pretty consistent,” Domsitz said of Graham, who took over for Maurice Douglass in 2014. “We went back and looked at a film or two from last year the way he sets up his offense and his defense, he’s pretty, pretty consistent in the sense that he likes a particular defense and he likes the offensive formations that have been good to him. So, I think overall we’ve got a pretty good feel of what he’s doing. He’s not going to change much. He’s been too successful.”

Graham represents another connection between these two programs.

Before starring at Ohio State and playing 11 seasons in the NFL, he played for Domsitz at Alter from 1984-87.

On more than one occasion, Domsitz has called Graham probably the best athlete he ever coached, and this week he revealed the wishbone offense that has become synonymous with the Knights' winning over the years dates back specifically to the Graham era.

“I’ll tell you the truth, we were a veer team,” Domsitz said. “I was a veer coach from about 1977 until Jeff Graham’s senior year. When Jeff was going to be a senior, we didn’t have anybody who was able to get him the ball, so we took him from wide receiver and he played quarterback for us here and safety. And at that point I wanted Jeff Graham to carry the ball, and I felt that it would be easier to allow that to happen out of the wishbone because I had an extra back in the backfield who could block, who we could use in different blocking schemes. So we went to the wishbone Jeff’s senior year, we’ve pretty much been wishbone since.”

ExploreAlter downs Dunbar to advance in playoffs

Friday night the two offenses might line up differently, but they will likely have the same primary objective: To run the football.

Although Alter does so primarily out of the wishbone, the Knights will get in the shotgun at times.

Trotwood runs from spread formations and the I.

With Branden McDonald leading the way, the Knights average 304 yards per game on the ground. McDonald, a 6-foot-1, 208-pound senior, has accounted for almost half those yards (979 total) while quarterback Brian Shane is second on the team with 493 yards.

Trotwood has shown more balance, averaging 167.8 yards per game on the ground and 130.8 through the air.

Hezekiah Hudson-Davis leads the Rams in rushing with 316 yards and six touchdowns while brother Jeremiah has 19 carries for 101 yards and two more scores.

Quarterback Cooper Stewart completed 6 of 11 passes for 88 yards against Carroll, but he has shown the ability to hurt teams through the air. Most notably: a 189-yard, four-touchdown effort in a 38-8 win over Thurgood Marshall on Sept. 24.

The winner of the Alter-Trotwood game will face either Tippecanoe or Badin next.

That clash between the seventh-seeded Red Devils and second-seeded Rams is among several marquee matchups Friday night.

Elsewhere in Region 12, No. 1 seed Bellbrook will put its undefeated record on the line against No. 8 St. Mary’s Memorial.

In Division II, Region 8, third-seeded Piqua plays host to No. 6 Anderson from Cincinnati while No. 7 Stebbins goes to No. 2 Cincinnati La Salle.

Division I also has a matchup of high interest as No. 2 seed Northmont will play host to No. 3 Springfield in a rematch of a Week 4 game the undefeated Thunderbolts won 38-35.

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