QB transfer from Campbell to help lead Mooney team
Mooney will face Ohio's five playoff teams from last year.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- There's a chart inside the Cardinal Mooney locker room listing the results from a previous max-out weight lifting session.
Derrell Johnson, a quarterback transfer from Campbell, is listed in the top five in bench press (330 pounds), power clean (240) and deadlift (480).
In case you missed it, yes, he's a quarterback.
"That's an old chart, you know," Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said. "He's stronger now."
Johnson, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, will try to replace the departed Kyle McCarthy, who led the Cardinals to the Division IV state title last season and is playing defensive back at Notre Dame.
At this time last year, McCarthy was trying to replace the departed Ron Stoops, who earned a scholarship from Michigan State before deciding not to play.
"Derrell's going to be just one piece of the puzzle," Fecko said. "He's got a lot to learn and it's just a matter of him picking it up.
"It's really a different situation than last year," Fecko said. "Kyle had been in the system and Derrell starting from square one."
Fortunately, he'll have help. Johnson carried the Campbell offense last season, gaining more than 1,000 yards both rushing and passing.
His run-first, pass-second style will fit in nicely with Mooney's stacked-I attack. Plus, he'll benefit from having a talented supporting cast that includes tailback Nate Burney, wideout Desmond Marrow and offensive linemen George Clarke and Colin Chambers
"Here, he doesn't have to do everything," Marrow said. "At Campbell, he had to doing everything himself. Now he's got people around him."
Unfortunately, many of them lack experience. Mooney returns 12 lettermen, but have just three returning starters on offense.
Marrow, who gave a verbal commitment to Miami of Ohio, will help anchor a defense that returns just two starters.
"We definitely lost some really good guys," defensive coordinator Ron Stoops said. "But we've got some talented guys coming back and we've got good numbers."
Stoops paused, then smiled.
"I'm going to stop now," he said. "[Former coach Don] Bucci wouldn't have said that. He'd say, 'Well, we've got an awful lot to replace and I don't know how we're going to do it.'"
Mooney had about 73 players on the team at the beginning of August, which is about what they had last summer.
All that team did was go 12-2 and beat Versailles 28-6 for the state championship -- Mooney's fifth title overall and first since 1987.
"We had a lot of unity on last year's team," Chambers said. "We've got a similar outlook this year. There's a lot of optimism about this season and it's up to us seniors to provide leadership. We don't want to live in the shadow of last year's team."
Added Fecko, "Last year was great and all that, but this is a new year. We've got a lot of hard work ahead of us."
The Cardinals will benefit from getting five extra weeks of practice before playoff games last year. They'll need it, considering they'll play one of the toughest schedules of any Div. IV team in the state.
"I think where the extra practices help is with the younger guys," Fecko said. "If you can't get game experience, practice experience is the next best thing."
On the schedule
Mooney's schedule includes five Ohio playoff teams from last year: Ursuline, Warren Harding, Cleveland Benedictine, Walsh Jesuit and Columbus Bishop Watterson.
Benedictine has won back-to-back Div. III state titles and Watterson lost in the state semifinals.
The Cardinals also will travel to Buffalo, N.Y., in Week Two to play St. Francis High School, which beat Cleveland St. Ignatius last year.
"Everyone's going to have our game marked on their calendars," Marrow said. "We've just got to come together as a team and work together. Our main goal this year is to make the playoffs first."
"I want to win another state title," he said.