You have to excuse West Virginia head football coach Bill Stewart if he was a little giddy last weekend.
Sure his Moutaineers won their game against their archrival neighbor Pittsburgh, but that was not the source of Stewart’s celebrating. Once he became aware of what prized recruit Braylon Heard of Cardinal Mooney did on the football field last Friday night, Stewart most likely started salivating.
All Heard did was rush for 298 yards and three touchdowns in Mooney’s 45-7 squashing of supposedly super Steubenville. Oh yeah, in the process, Heard helped his team remain undefeated (14-0) and advance to the Division III state championship. The Cardinals will try for state title number seven when they take on Columbus DeSales this Friday at 11 a.m. at Massillon’s Paul Brown Stadium.
“It’s an exciting time,” said Mooney head coach P.J. Fecko. “(Playing in the state championship) is a culmination of a lot of hard work.”
Being undefeated after 14 weeks is truly a team effort, but nobody can deny the individual performance of Heard in the state semifinals. Fecko acknowledged Braylon’s brilliance, but he also reminded everyone that Heard had some help.
“Braylon is somebody who plays at a high level,” he said. “He has been making plays for us all year. He would be the first one to tell you, though, that he has a great supporting cast. The guys up front put him in a great position to succeed.”
Fecko attributed his team’s spanking of Steubenville to its ability to jump out to a quick lead. The Cardinals scored on a four-yard touchdown run by quarterback Alex Zordich midway through the first quarter to give the local kids a 7-0 lead. After a Big Red touchdown (their only one of the game) tied the score in the second quarter, Mooney went on to put up the last 38 points of the game. Twenty-one of those points came before halftime with the first 14 coming via the legs of Heard. Braylon battered the Big Red on runs of 43 and 65 yards. Ray Vinopal added a 30-yard touchdown run of his own to make it 28-7 Cardinals at the break.
Although the game was essentially over at halftime, it wasn’t truly finished until Heard handed out his knock-out punch. With just more than three minutes left in the third quarter, Braylon took a pitch, bounced outside and booked 94-yards down the sideline to make the score 38-7. That run also ran the Redbirds into the state finals.
Mooney would end the night with over 450 yards of offense, all on the ground. Meanwhile, the Mooney defense dumped the heretofore big Big Red offense all night. Steubenville superstar quarterback Dwight Macon was shut down all evening as he was held to just 85 yards through the air. The Big Red only mustered 110 yards of total offense, had just seven first downs and was never a threat after their second quarter score. Steubenville made plenty of mistakes last Friday, but its biggest faux pas may have been traveling to Fawcett Stadium to play the Cardinals.
The next victim, I mean, opponent for the unbeaten Cards will be 11-3 DeSales. The Stallions were the second notch in the Cardinals belt when they lost 21-14 at Stambaugh Stadium on Sept. 2. Since that defeat DeSales has only lost two games.
Coach Fecko does not see that win 12 weeks ago playing a factor in this Friday’s championship.
“I don’t know if it makes a difference,” he analyzed. “It feels like a year ago (since that game was played). DeSales is a good team and deserves to be where they are at.”
The Columbus kids clobbered Cincinnati Wyoming 24-7 in their Final Four appearance using a dominating defense. Leading the defense was lineman Chris Rock who had an unfunny three sacks and one deflected pass.
“(DeSales) plays sound defense,” Fecko stated. “They might be difficult to move the ball against. Their defense is set up by the way they control the ball on offense.”
Offensively for the Stallions, quarterback Nick Gentile may not be as much of a threat to the Cardinals defense as Macon was a week ago, but he did score twice versus Wyoming.
Of course, Heard scored three times against Steubenville. More production like that this week will help produce championship trophy number seven for the Cardinals. Then all of Heard’s coaches, current and future, will be celebrating as will the rest of Mooney Nation.