Curt Kuntz led Struthers to an 8-2 season and its first playoff berth since 1999 after the Wildcats narrowly missed the playoffs in his first year at the school, 2012. Struthers beat Lakeview, 35-14, last week in the first round and faces Cardinal Mooney this week in a Division IV regional semifinal.
Q. Your team just missed qualifying for the playoffs last season. How did that help to motivate the players for this season?
A. 0.064 points was how much we missed it by. That’s the difference between one of our opponents’ wins being against a team just a division higher. Not an additional win by one of our opponents but having one of the teams they beat be just a division higher. It was bad for our seniors last year, they didn’t get to enjoy the playoffs, but overall it was a great thing for our program. There were a lot of little things last year we were not doing as well as we needed. That was brought to light with the team coming back and we had a lot more focus in the offseason in the weight room and then on the practice field.
Q. In the first round of the playoffs your team defeated Lakeview, a team you beat 35-14 in week 2. Was there any concern about the kids looking ahead?
A. We were concerned about trying to beat a great program and great coach. Beating coach (Tom) Pavlansky’s team twice in a year is tough enough, there was no concern about us overlooking anyone. We’re not there yet. We worry about ourselves and getting better. No one in our program looked past Lakeview.
Q. How did your team react afer suffering two losses (to Hubbard and Poland) in the middle of the season?
A. For us every Monday is a new Monday. We don’t worry about Friday night. We learn from it in film study on Saturday but we get back to work on Monday. The two losses came against teams that are 21-1 combined and are in a division higher than us. We didn’t look at it as a negative, we looked at what we could do to get to that level. You are never happy with a loss, but at the same token the two teams are 21-1. It has made us a better program in the long run.
Q. Do you think your team has improved every week?
A. I do this year. That was a bit of a downfall for us last year, we didn’t improve every week. We started out well but I don’t think we worked to improve every week. This year we did that in all three aspects of the game. I think we have more multiple looks on defense, depending on who we’re playing, and on offense we have continued to improve.
Q. How would you rate your team’s 14-3 playoff victory last week over Lakeview?
A. I was extremely pleased with the defense. With the quarterback they have and the offensive team, to hold them to three points is beyond unbelievable. On offense we made too many mistakes in the first half but we cleaned that up in the second half. When you win a playoff game you’ve got to be happy, they are hard to come by.
Q. What about this week, are your kids excited to face Cardinal Mooney?
A. Our kids are extremely happy to be playing in Week 12. Whether we are playing this team or that team we worry about what we can control and what we need to do. We don’t talk about what an opponent has done in the past. On Friday night, the team that blocks best and tackles best will win. Past history doesn’t have an impact on who does those things best.