It's amazing how quickly things can change during a high school football season.
A week ago, Boardman was on top of the world after blasting Cleveland Benedictine 35-6. A day later, Cardinal Mooney was playing a big-time game of its own against Cleveland St. Ignatius at an even bigger-time venue in Cleveland Browns Stadium. While the Spartans had a slam dunk in their season opener, the defending Division III state champion Cardinals lost their colossal clash with the defending Division I state champion Wildcats, 31-7.
Mooney made it a point after that demoralizing first loss to rebound when it hosted Boardman at Stambaugh Stadium on Aug. 31. The Cardinals rebounded so well it would have made Dwight Howard proud. The parochial power exploded for 23 points in the fourth period and suffocated the Spartans defensively all evening in a 37-0 whitewash.
It only took about one quarter of play to realize just how hurt the Cardinals' defense was by the 31 points the Wildcats whipped it with a week earlier. Boardman was bullied by the Cardinals' defense with three consecutive three and out possessions in the first half. Junior Mooney defensive end Marlan Everson spearheaded the suffocation of the Spartans with four tackles for loss and numerous other tackles.
Another Mooney player who put Boardman in a bind was junior kick returner Mark Handel. After his defensive mates made another third down stop on a Spartan series, Handel got a great handle on a Boardman punt and heated up the crowd even more on the hot and muggy summer Friday night with a sensational 69-yard punt return for a touchdown. That score gave Mooney a 7-0 advantage. That lead would increase to 14-0 before halftime when Justus Ellis-Moore scored the first of his two long touchdown runs from 37 yards out. The game remained 14-0 until the Cardinals flew away from the Spartans in the fourth quarter. That period began with a safety when Boardman's punter was tackled in the end zone then continued with a 42-yard Ellis-Moore touchdown run, a 53-yard Marcus McWilson touchdown tote and a Ron Quaranta 1-yard touchdown plunge.
Ellis-Moore would pace Mooney with 185 of his team's spectacular 300 yards rushing. Conversely, the Spartans could only muster 135 yards on 45 carries against the stout Mooney "D" and really only came close to scoring on two occasions.
The entire team effort by the Cardinals just six nights after getting humiliated by St. Ignatius impressed head coach P.J. Fecko.
"It was a tribute to our team refocusing themselves after last week and getting after it this week," he said after the win.
Fecko's kids will try to "get after it" again this Saturday night against another strong Division I school when they travel to Warren Harding. The 1-1 Raiders are coming off an outstanding 34-0 rout of archrival Howland.
The Spartans are also 1-1 now on the young season and will need to refocus for their week 3 visit from Akron Hoban this Friday. Fitch pounded the Akron outfit 49-9 in week 2 so the Spartans will not have to look far for film on how to handle Hoban.
On the bright side for the Spartans, quarterback John Babos making his second start against Mooney, played well enough against relentless pressure. He almost connected with receiver Les McIntosh for a third quarter touchdown pass, but the throw just tipped off McIntosh's mitts. Babos and his offensive brothers certainly showed in the team's week 1 win over Benedictine that they have enough moxie and talent to bump off some of the bigger teams in the area. Handling Hoban on Friday will certainly reflect that.