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Mooney takes seventh championship in Div. III

December 10, 2009
By Nik Zirounis Town Crier correspondent
It is time to make some space available in the trophy case at Cardinal Mooney High School.

The Cardinals totally dismantled Columbus DeSales 35-7 last Friday morning in Massillon to capture the Division III state championship. That championship triumph was the seventh in school history hence the rearranging needed in the statue holder. In the process, the Cardinals finished the season a perfect 15-0 breaking the school record for wins in one season.

In typical Mooney fashion, the offense was once again incredible. Mooney mauled the Stallions for nearly 400 yards of total offense with 275 of that coming on the ground. Braylon Heard, who has led the Cardinals all playoffs, proved his superstar status again with 28 carries for 183 yards.  Heard hammered home touchdown runs of 26 and 53 yards and, in a new wrinkle, showed he has just as wonderful an arm as he does legs when he connected with Don D’Alesio for an eight-yard coup de grace touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Ray Vinopal put the Cardinals in front when he scored the game’s first touchdown with a 56-yard run late in the first quarter. Vinopal would finish with seven carries for 74 yards. Quarterback Alex Zordich had a touchdown plunge from a yard out and would end the game with 25 yards on the ground and 100 yards through the air.

All of those touchdowns would add up to a 35-0 Mooney lead late in the fourth quarter. Many of those scoring opportunities were made possible by an incredible effort by the underrated and sometimes overlooked Cardinals defense. Essentially Mooney tossed a shutout in the state championship (DeSales would not score until the backups were in with only a few seconds left in the game). Stallion star quarterback Nick Gentile was harassed all morning and afternoon by the relentless Cardinal kids. He would run for over 100 yards, but with the score decidedly in Mooney’s favor, rushing yards were not what Gentile wanted. The Stallions’ signal caller was short on the passing end with just 40 yards via his arm. Most importantly, Gentile fumbled the ball five times and was intercepted once. 

Defensive stalwarts for Mooney were hard to choose since eight different defenders registered a tackle for loss, a sack, a fumble or an interception. Senior linebacker Mark Brandenstein, however, was not hard to ignore as he recorded six tackles (one for a loss) and a fumble recovery.  Senior Mark Pelini picked up another fumble at the Stallions’ one-yard line that set up Zordich’s second-quarter score.

Before that, above mentioned quarterback sneak success there was a nifty play made by Mooney punter A.J. Fox. On fourth and 14 from his own 45-yard line, Fox made the best of a snap that sailed over his head. He corralled the pesky pigskin at the Mooney 30 and got off a line drive punt that did not stop rolling until settling at the Stallions’ four. Pelini made his play from there. At that point there was still half of the second period remaining and Mooney was only up a touchdown. The botched snap could have set up a huge momentum swing, but instead it turned out to be another example of the Cardinals’ complete team greatness of 2009.

So now Mooney head coach P.J. Fecko has championship number three of his tenure as his team improves to 7-3 overall in state finals. That record usually represents a good season for most schools. The Cardinals won their playoff games by an average score of 40-7 to punctuate their dominance.  Although Mooney loses some incredible athletes off of this year’s championship bunch, it always is ready to restock the roster just like it restocked that trophy case last weekend. 

Mooney 35, DeSales 7. A perfect ending to a perfect Mooney season.


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