By Greg Gulas
Last season, the Struthers Wildcats finished 6-4 under first-year coach Curt Kuntz, narrowly missing the playoffs by just .0624 points.
In the offseason, Kuntz made sure that his team would not forget just how close they were to postseason play. He hung a subtle reminder up in the weight room where everyone could view and digest that number when taking part in conditioning and weightlifting.
“Last year, we played four quarters with limited numbers and so many players competed both ways,” Kuntz said. “We took our bumps and bruises because depth really hurt us.
“There were no excuses because if we took care of what we needed to then we would have extended our season. Those .0624 points got us through the long winter months.”
With 51 players out for the team this year, Kuntz believes those numbers will allow his staff to develop that much-needed depth.
Gone is All-Ohio running back David Stewart, who rushed for 1,600 yards and added another 500 receiving yards
But 23 lettermen are back, including eight starters on each side of the football and two specialists.
The Wildcats have a history of producing top-notch quarterbacks and three-year letterwinner Gary Muntean is the latest.
Muntean threw for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He was 93 of 139 and threw just five interceptions.
Nick Pollifrone returns to the backfield. Temeko Holness, a state qualifier in track as a junior, heads a list of receivers awaiting a Muntean missile.
Five starters from last season return up front — Mike Pape, Dan Pape, Dan Dudley, Carmen Sinkovich and Donald Clyde.
The line returns Jay King, Cameron Suchora and Austin Yemma while two-year starter Braxton Koup and Pollifrone head a strong group of linebackers.
Three starters from last season — Marcus Donnadio, Frankie Serrano and Dalton Moore — will anchor the secondary.
Donnadio, who averaged 31.4 yards on 27 punts last season is back and Brandon Kish will be the kicker.
Kyle George is also considered one of the best snappers in the area.
“You cannot replace a David Stewart so we’ll utilize the players we have in different roles by committee,” Kuntz said. “We didn’t have that luxury last year.”
Defense is a strength, simply because of depth, which will now allow the staff to spell players, especially against hurry-up offenses.
“It’s an old cliche, but you have to stay healthy, especially at the high school level, if you want to enjoy any type of success,” Kuntz said. “With added numbers this year, we’ll be able to play more players 10-12 snaps a game.
“We’ll let them do what they do well and won’t ask them to do what they cannot. We don’t have a superstar, but in my 17 years of coaching I have never been around a finer group of guys.”