By STEVE WILAJ
Cardinal Mooney High running backs Mark Handel and C.J. Amill possess the skills to be a feature back. Luckily for the Cardinals, they also have the trait of being unselfish.
Working as a duo, Handel and Amill rushed for a combined 197 yards on 30 carries as Mooney defeated John Hay, 45-20, Friday at Stambaugh Stadium in the first round of the Region 11 Division IV playoffs.
“We switch every play, unless one back gets it going — like five or 10 yards a carry,” Amill said. “But tonight, we both were just doing a great job, so we kept flipping back and forth.”
Amill, a junior, was the top rusher with 126 yards on 16 carries. Handel, a senior, added 71 yards on 14 attempts.
Balancing the two is part of Mooney coach PJ Fecko’s game plan.
“They’ve been able to do it all year — they’re clearly a team,” Fecko said. “It does a great job of getting a fresh set of legs in there all the time.
“We run the ball so much, so one guy doesn’t get beat up all the time and they can keep coming.”
Handel found the end zone at the end of the first quarter, scoring from 13 yards out to put Mooney ahead 7-0. He then scored again a few minutes later on a 14-yard run.
“The more we kept running the ball, the more we realized we could just do it all game,” Amill said. “The offensive line did a great job tonight.”
The Cardinals (7-4) put the game away in the third quarter with two touchdowns in nine seconds.
First, quarterback Jon Saadey connected with Tim Durkin on a 28-yard touchdown pass at the 7:42 mark. Then Jordan Jones recovered a John Hay fumble on the following kickoff and returned it 22 yards for a 31-0 advantage.
Amill added a 5-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“We made some adjustments here and there,” Fecko said. “Our guys did a good job of making plays and choosing the right spots and getting things done.”
Ja’Braylon McClendon added a 12-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. In all, Mooney finished with 294 rushing yards on 44 attempts.
“We knew John Hay was a good team, so we had to compete and play hard every play and that’s what we did,” Amill said.
John Hay (8-3) scored all of its points in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Mykil Mitchell threw touchdown passes of 3, 37 and 6 yards to Latif Hughes, Marquell Jones and Demarcus Sanders, respectively. Mitchell finished with 247 passing yards, connecting on 12 of 27 attempts.
Mooney advances to play Struthers next week in round two.
“Struthers is a great team but we’ll be ready for them,” Amill said. “We’ll be ready.”