By Matthew Peaslee
Matt Adorni hasn’t forgotten the final 12 minutes of a game that happened 12 months ago.
The Mogadore head football coach saw his team make a comeback, threaten, but fall in the first-round of the 2011 Division VI playoffs.
Youngstown Christian beat the Wildcats, 20-17. The rematch is tonight.
“They had pulled up by 10 and we scored and got the ball back,” Adorni said. “We had it right at midfield with a minute left, but couldn’t get it moving.
“In that game, we had three good chances to score in the red zone and couldn’t. One thing we have to do a better job of this year against them is finishing our drives.”
Running back Gary Strain returns as a 6-foot-2, 200-pound bruiser. He rushed for over 1,500 yards as a junior and, after battling leg injuries to start the year, already has surpassed that with 26 rushing touchdowns as a senior.
Last year against the Eagles, Strain had two scores and 154 yards on 23 carries.
“Gary Strain is an awesome runner,” YCS coach Brian Marrow said. “He’s big, fast and strong.”
And he’s the start of the Mogadore (12-0) offense.
“He can run with power and speed,” Adorni said. “He along with sophomore Brandon Berry, who nearly has 1,000 yards, is a stocky fireplug. We haven’t had to pass as much.”
But that’s not to say they’re weak in that department.
Junior quarterback Anthony Ricci has over 1,000 passing yards and 18 touchdowns through the air.
“We can do enough to keep them off balance,” Adorni said. “It’ll make for a nice chess match.”
The Eagles (9-2) are programmed the same way. Ryan Grier (1,315 yards, 15 TDs) has kicked into a second gear for the playoffs. He’s averaged 182 rushing yards in the past two games. Quarterback Emmett Underwood, too, has improved through the second part of the season. After throwing for just 44 yards in the first round, Underwood threw for 190 last week with two touchdown passes.
“We’re aware of [Grier] in the backfield and what they can do throwing the ball,” Adorni said. “We’re ready to defend a lot of things and with their athleticism, they can turn a simple gain into a big play. At this stage in the game, you don’t go out saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to stop them.’
“They’re going to make big plays; we need to try to limit them.”
Adorni’s father was a Mogadore team captain in the 1960s and he is a 1992 graduate. In 2004, he took over the head coaching position after 10 years of being an assistant. The program has 15 regional championships and four state titles.
“A lot of the foundational stuff has been built,” he said. “It’s up to us to maintain the excellence. That’s easier said than done. A lot of times, people think automatic wins come with tradition.
“In our league, we get everybody’s best shot. They’re all gunning for us. It’s great, but our kids have a bar set high for themselves. It can be cruel sometimes. We get knocked out this week and we’re 12-1, people won’t remember this team — as sad as that is to say. We want a regional title and we want a state title.”