The Cardinals knocked off a strong Walsh Jesuit team, 22-10.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Twice, a very solid Division III Walsh Jesuit High football team had Mooney down.
And twice the defending Div. IV state champions rebounded with clutch scores.
After trailing 10-7 midway through the third quarter of Friday's opener at Boardman Stadium, the Cardinals' offensive line took over, propelling Mooney to two touchdowns and a 22-10 victory.
Quarterback Derrell Johnson and tailback Nate Burney took advantage of their line's blocks, rushing for a combined 299 yards.
"We've got a lot of athletes behind the ball, but our line worked hard all winter, spring and summer," said Burney, who had 148 yards on 26 carries. "They went out there and got it done."
In the second quarter, Johnson scored Mooney's first touchdown on a 58-yard run that saw him scramble approximately 100 yards from Warriors defenders for a 7-7 tie.
"We had key blocks by [tackle] Pat Kohowski and [receiver] Kenny Coleman," said Johnson, who had 151 yards on 21 attempts. "After I saw Kohowski's block, I knew [the play] was going to the house."
Praise from coach
Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said Johnson, a transfer from Campbell Memorial, is special. "Derrell is a team player who took great advantage of his blocks and Nate Burney. With people keying on Nate, they really gives us a one-two punch back there."
After Walsh kicker Matt Demarchi's 33-yard field goal put Mooney down 10-7 midway through the third quarter, Burney and Johnson were unstoppable during a 10-play, 80 yard scoring march capped by Burney's 5-yard scoring run.
On the conversion try, holder Pat Kelley took a bad snap and ran into the end zone for a 15-10 lead.
After Walsh managed a first down, Mooney's offense gobbled half the fourth quarter in producing a 74-yard drive.
The play that all but broke the Warriors' spirits came on the final touchdown when Johnson scrambled for about 8 yards then pitched back to Burney, who ran another 17 for the final points of the game.
"We have a pitch relationship at all times," Johnson said. "So I knew Nate was going to be there."
Fecko said the Cardinals practices pitches beyond the line of scrimmage. "Usually we have to yell at our tailbacks to keep up that far because they sometimes like to hang back.
"The practice obviously paid off because Nate was right where [he needed to be] and Derrell had a good feel for him and flipped it," Fecko said. "That's a difficult play to execute that far down the field."
Filling big shoes
Burney said Johnson's presence behind center "means a whole lot because it takes some pressure off [returning starters]. He keeps us together and I think he will fit in nicely. That was one of the biggest questions about Mooney -- who was going to replace [2004 quarterback] Kyle McCarthy? I think we've filled his shoes very nicely."
Fecko said the Cardinals' sluggish start created some cause for concern.
"It's a little unsettling when you go down, but we weren't panicked," Fecko said. "I thought our guys reacted well. Their inexperience showed in the first half -- penalties, jumpiness, a little bit of nervousness.
"So I'm really proud of the way they settled in," Fecko said. "This shows our younger players the potential that they have."
Walsh tailback Mark Woolridge gained 129 yards, but 77 of them came in the first quarter. Quarterback Eric Hinkle completed five of 14 passes for 61 yards.
"Our coaches said this might have been our hardest [opening opponent] in about 20 years," Burney said. "To compete at this level, it's so good to get off to a good start.