Back in August, the Cardinals picked up their first win of the season with a victory at Fawcett Stadium over highly regarded Division I school Canton McKinley. Thirteen weeks later at that same venue, the Cardinals picked up their 11th win with a 21-14 victory over previously undefeated Springfield Shawnee. While win number one was special because it gave Mooney momentum to start the season, the last win was the greatest because it gave the Cardinals the Division III state championship. This state title is number eight for the Cardinals who now rank second in Ohio in total number of championships (only Cleveland St. Ignatius, who won their 11th last weekend, have more).
Last Friday’s battle may have been tougher than any expert may have expected for Mooney. The unbeaten Braves were Division III’s “team of destiny” as it unexpectedly busted into the title game, 14-0. Mooney was intent on doing its own busting to the dreams of Shawnee fans when it scored on the first play of the second quarter on an 18-yard Roosevelt Griffin touchdown run to go ahead 7-0. The Braves showed their bravado by battling right back three minutes later to tie the score. Mooney made everyone in the crowd forget about that game-tying touchdown when it scored two more times before halftime. Quarterback P.J. Quinn sneaked in from two yards out to give the Cardinals a 14-7 lead. Then a couple minutes before halftime, Quinn quieted the Shawnee rooters again with a 1-yard touchdown plunge to make it 21-7 at intermission. That last touchdown was set up by a Marcus McWilson 36-yard interception return that set up the Cardinals inside the Shawnee red zone. The pick was also the only turnover in the otherwise well played championship contest. Mooney’s pre-halftime drive was also kept alive by a Shawnee penalty on third down that gave the Cardinals a first down inside their opponent’s five yard line.
Most observers believed with Mooney leading by two scores the second half would be a Cardinal touchdown fest turning the closely contested game into a blowout. The Braves had other ideas however. Admirable defense by the Braves kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard the entire second half allowing their offensive mates the opportunity to comeback. Following a scoreless third period, Shawnee quarterback Brad Jarzab scored on his second touchdown run of the game to pull the underdogs to within one touchdown of retying the tilt. Jarzab finished with an impressive 161 yards rushing with those two scores and another 122 yards passing. Late in the fourth quarter Jarzab would get one more chance to show off his skills. Shawnee set up at its own 20 yard line with 80 yards standing between a tie game and another Mooney championship. Jarzab got the Braves down to Mooney’s 12-yard line, but his fourth down pass was broken up neatly by the Cardinals’ Ryan Farragher in the back of the end zone sealing Shawnee’s fate. Quinn then ran out the clock as he became the latest in a long line of Cardinal signal callers to lead his squad to a championship. The senior quarterback would end the day with just 52 yards passing, but more importantly to the Mooney offense he controlled the game, didn’t turn the ball over and scored on two short sneaks as he finished what he later called “his dream come true.”
Griffin was fairly unstoppable all afternoon rushing the ball 21 times for 120 yards. Farragher not only made the defensive save of the game, but he also had almost all of Mooney’s receiving yards with four catches for 39.
The Cardinals defense may not have stopped Jarzab much, but it did dump him three times for sacks. Division I defensive first teamer Courtney Love led the Cardinals with eight tackles.
Love will be back in 2012 to lead the defense along with two-way stars McWilson and Justus Ellis-Moore who made an impact on defense in the championship with a sack and had 70 yards rushing. Also returning will be head coach P.J. Fecko who now has five championship rings as boss of the Cards.
Quinn, Griffin, Farragher, Billy Stana, Cameron DiVito, Carmen Lanzo and Austin Trgovich are some of the impactful seniors who said goodbye last weekend. That senior group didn’t weep tears of sorrow though because they leave with two championship triumphs to brag about.
With a solid core of returnees and an always up and coming underclass ready to hit the practice field next summer Mooney should not be too far away from challenging for state title number nine. Because you see, in some circles eight is considered enough, but at Cardinal Mooney, eight is just another rung on the ladder towards state immortality.
Photos by Mike Capps, Town Crier correspondent
Cardinal Mooney’s senior quarterback PJ Quinn is unable to find an open receiver and avoids a sack to gain four yards during the Division III State Final at Fawcett Stadium, Dec. 2. Mooney captured their eighth state title by beating the Springfield Shawnee Braves, 21-14.