Stop me if you have heard this before.
The Cardinal Mooney football team will be playing for a state championship this Friday.
Mooney manhandled the usually stout Steubenville Big Red 37-7 in the Division IV state semifinals played Nov. 29 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton. On Dec. 6 at 3 pm in revered Massillon Paul Brown Stadium, the 10-4 Cardinals will go for state title number nine against Clarksville Clinton-Massie.
"We got beat by a very good football team," said Steubenville head coach Reno Saccoccia succinctly to reporters immediately after the game.
It didn't take very long last Friday night for the Cardinals to prove exactly how good they are. Mark Handel warmed up every Mooney fan that took the hour trip south to sit in the freezing temperatures when he returned the opening kickoff 47-yards into Big Red territory. A few plays later Jon Saadey slipped in from a yard out to give Mooney a 7-0 lead. Handel would hurt Steubenville again later in the first quarter when he returned an interception 39-yards for a touchdown. After one quarter, Mooney led 14-0 and it seemed like Steubenville would be in a game-long stupor.
Making sure that Steubenville stayed silent was Mooney's dominating defense. The vaunted Big Red offense lost some of its luster due to how much the Cardinals clamped down all game. Mooney's "D" only gave up 155 total yards and twelve first downs. Handel added another interception to his first quarter pick to aid in Steubenville's three-turnover night. Those miscues allowed the Cardinals to keep the ball out of dangerous territory most of the evening.
"We were able to keep field position in our corner," said Mooney head coach P.J. Fecko. "Our defense did a good job swinging momentum."
Momentum is something that can be built many ways in a football game. Special teams are always a facet of football that coaches concede is one of those ways and the Cardinals were indeed special in that category last Friday. Kicker Zak Kennedy connected on three field goals for the Cardinals as well as nailing all four of his extra point tries. When his team wasn't scoring touchdowns it was still adding to its lead.
"We were finishing drives with points," said Fecko.
Scoring points may not be as easy this week when the Cardinals meet Clinton-Massie. The 13-1 Falcons have had three games this season when they have pitched shutouts and three more games when they only allowed seven points. This will be Clinton-Massie's second straight trip to the state championship so it's doubtful that the surroundings or the legendary Cardinals will intimidate the team. The Falcons will arrive at Paul Brown Stadium fresh off 21-20 upset of undefeated Kenton. That was a win that saw the Falcons fight back from two touchdowns down in the final 10 minutes. One player who Mooney's defense may have to account for a lot Friday afternoon is rangy junior running back Chayse Wolf. The 6 foot-2-inch, 190-pound back accounted for two touchdowns against Kenton and has been the Falcons leading rusher all season.
Of course, Mooney has been masterful in slowing down opponents all year. That is why the Cardinal engine is still pumping full force on the first weekend of December. The last stop for this Mooney train may be against the school from Clarksville, but it wouldn't be shocking if the Cardinals returned home with championship trophy number nine on board.