By Steve ruman
For both Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and Struthers, the game plan was simple.
Control the line of scrimmage and keep the opponent’s offense off the field while eating up yards and time of possession.
Mooney accomplished its goal, Struthers did not, and the result was a 42-14 Cardinals win in a Division IV regional semifinal at Bo Rein Stadium.
The victory sends the Cardinals (8-4) into the Region 11 title game, where they will play Cleveland Benedictine.
Struthers bows out of the postseason with a 9-3 mark.
“I had said all week that first down was a crucial down for both teams,” said Mooney coach P.J. Fecko. “We did a good job all night offensively being ahead of the sticks, and on the other side, we got Struthers in second and long, and that caused some issues for their offense.
“Overall, we were very pleased. We did what we wanted to do against a very good opponent. Struthers is a very good team.”
The hero of the night for Mooney was junior running back C.J. Amill, who rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. Amill also had a key 17-yard run in the latter stages of the second quarter which changed the tempo of the contest.
Senior Mark Handel added 106 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, while junior quarterback Jon Saadey rushed and threw for a TD.
Struthers’ usually-reliable running game struggled all night. Junior Luke Witkowski was limited to 20 yards on 10 carries. As a team, the Wildcats gained just 23 rushing yards on 32 carries. Quarterback Gary Muntean completed 14 of 22 passes for 157 yards.
Mooney scored on its first two possessions. Saadey capped a 66-yard drive with a 8-yard TD run on a perfectly-designed bootleg. Less than four minutes later, Amill completed a five-play, 38-yard drive with an 11-yard run.
Struthers got back into the game midway through the second quarter. A 41-yard Muntean-to-Nick Pollifrone pass gave the Cats possession inside the Mooney 20. Two plays later, Austin Yemma pulled in an 8-yard touchdown pass.
The ensuing kickoff pinned Mooney back to its own 10-yard-line. The Cardinals were facing a third-and-nine at their 12 when Amill broke off a 12-yard run.
Mooney turned the possession into an 11-play, 90-yard scoring drive. The Cardinals scored on an 8-yard Handel pass to Christian Lowery with 40 seconds left in the half.
“Our guys have been in that type of situation before and they kept their cool after Struthers had the momentum,” Fecko said. “We did a great job of keeping them off-balance. They were committing a lot of guys to the line of scrimmage and leaving some weak spots open that we hit some big passes on.”
Mooney scored on its first possession of the second half on an Amill 57-yard run. Amill then put the game out of reach with a 47-yard burst to the end zone with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
Despite the loss, Kuntz said he was extremely proud of the season-long effort put forth by his Wildcats.
“Back in June, I guaranteed that everyone in this community would be extremely proud of this group of players,” Kuntz said. “A couple years ago we were trying to compete in the lower level of our conference. From where we were to where we are now, we can hold our heads extremely high.”