D-III regional final preview: Alter seeks 12th final four appearance

Knights face Ross for first time in 18 years in regional final

Eight weeks ago, Alter was 0-2. It’s now 7-2 and will play for its 12th state final four appearance at 7 p.m. Friday when it faces Ross in the Division III, Region 12 final in Hamilton.

Alter coach Ed Domsitz likes a number of things about the way his team is playing, but it starts with the big men up front: senior guard Devin Anderson; senior guard Tommy Leibold; junior center Austin Montgomery; senior tackle Matthew See; junior tackle Derrick Shepard; and tight end Joe Manfre.

“Our offensive line has improved immeasurably,” Domsitz said. ‘I’ve come to the conclusion the last few years, the most important facet of the game is the offensive line. I know people say defense wins championships, but if the defense is on the field too much, they’re going to get scored on. You have to have that offensive line to move the football, take some time off the clock and protect your quarterback."

That line has helped the offense put up big numbers through the first three rounds of the playoffs. The sixth-seeded Knights beat No. 11 Dunbar, No. 3 Trotwood-Madison and No. 2 Badin by a combined score of 97-16. Branden McDonald has rushed for 10 touchdowns in the three games and 20 this season.

Explore» State finals to be played in Obetz

Ross (8-1), the No. 5 seed, has also dominated three opponents. It beat No. 21 Monroe, No. 4 Richmond and No. 1 Bellbrook by a 141-45 margin. Prior to this run, Ross had not won a playoff game in seven appearances. It seeks its first state semifinal appearance.

This will be the first meeting between Alter and Ross since 2002. This is also the third straight team nicknamed the Rams Alter has played.

“I think any team that’s in the regional final, they’ve earned their way in,” Domsitz said. “They are a solid team offensively. They love to run the football. They’ve got a running back, fullback and quarterback who are excellent at running the football. Their defense is solid. They are fundamentally sound. They get after it. They put a lot of pressure on people, do a lot of slants. They’re everything you would expect to see in the regional final.”

Explore» Playoff schedule

The eight regional finalists in Division III have won 11 state titles. Canfield plays 1994 state champion Chardon. Tiffin Columbian plays 1975 champion Parma Heights Holy Name. Four-time champion Columbus Bishop Hartley plays three-time champion Columbus St. Francis DeSales.

The Alter-Ross winner will play Hartley or DeSales at a site to be announced on Nov. 14. The state championship game will be played Nov. 20 or 21 at Fortress Obetz south of Columbus.

Alter last made the state final four in 2018 and won back-to-back state championships in 2008 and 2009. This team seeks to add to that history. The offensive line isn’t the only group that has pleased Domsitz.

“We’ve been pretty sound on special teams,” he said. “I’ve been really pleased with our defense. With the exception of the first half against Clinton Massie, our kids have just been lights out. They get after it. They tackle well. We’ve improved in the sense that we get pressure on the quarterback. At the same time, our coverage is better. We’re doing a better job of contesting the passes.”

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