By Joe scalZo
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary football fans, take heart: You’re still one up on Wile E. Coyote.
Playing the Road Runner role, Cardinal Mooney continued one of the more confounding streaks in high school football, shutting down an explosive Irish offense en route to a 41-15 win at Stambaugh Stadium.
The Cardinals improved to 21-1 all-time against SVSM, with the only loss coming in the playoffs during the final year of the Reagan administration.
“It was a great win and they’re also a great team,” said Mooney senior Marcus McWilson, a Nebraska recruit. “It’d be great to see them again in the playoffs.”
The Irish (3-1) outscored their first three opponents by an average margin of 47-3 and finished with a huge edge in total plays (70-34) and first downs (19-6) on Friday.
Problem was, they also finished with a huge deficit in big plays, as Mooney came up with six sacks, a pair of 67-yard touchdowns (one by McWilson, the other on a pass from Denver Martin to Mark Handel on the first play of the third quarter) and a pair of interceptions (including one that Handel returned for a 22-yard touchdown that completed the scoring).
Handel, a junior safety, also made several big plays in the return game and did a nice job in man-to-man coverage against a team that likes to spread it out with three- and four-receiver formations.
“Mark’s been playing well all year and he’s a guy that has made big plays in games prior to this,” Mooney coach P.J. Fecko. “This evening he kept adding to that.
“He’s in a situation, special teams-wise, where he’s able to get his hands on the ball and he makes the most of it. Defensively, he did a good job breaking up a lot of balls and getting that interception. And offensively, obviously, he had the touchdown catch.”
McWilson made the most of his limited carries on offense, gaining 131 yards on seven attempts with three touchdowns for the Cardinals (2-2), who were coming off a loss to Warren Harding.
“Last week’s loss is not something we thought about too much,” said McWilson, whose team also lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the opener, followed by a win over Boardman. “The only thing to do is worry about right here, right now. Take it day-by-day, week-by-week and keep winning games to make the playoffs.
“Our goal is to win state.”
Justus Ellis-Moore added 70 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown and also blocked an Irish extra point.
Senior QB Clayton Ueker completed 23 of 39 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown for SVSM (3-1), while Fransohn Bickley caught nine passes for 105 yards and Jordan Hargrove had nine for 99 with a TD.
Bickley and junior RB Parris Campbell were members of the state championship 4x100-meter relay in track that bested the Cardinals, something McWilson didn’t forget.
“They got us in track, we got them in football,” said McWilson, who was joined by Ellis Moore on their third-place relay. “That’s definitely a great feeling.”
As for whether the teams will see each other again in the Division III playoffs, Fecko shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I know we’re going to see Mentor Lake Catholic next week. We’ll just deal with that.”