Mooney prepares for another familiar foe in Steubenville
One week after coming back to take down a longtime rival in Cleveland Benedictine, the Cardinal Mooney football team (9-4) will see another familiar foe.
The Cardinals will meet another storied program in Steubenville Friday at Fawcett Stadium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton in a Division IV state semifinal.
And while the teams are historically familiar with each other — Mooney is 6-1 against Big Red, all in the playoffs — the Cardinals are very familiar with this year’s team, too.
Mooney, which overcame a 14-0 first half to beat Benedictine 28-21, has built an impressive library — both digital and tape — of game film. When the Cardinals exchanged film with archrival Ursuline prior to their Week 9 clash, the Mooney coaching staff decided not to discard Ursuline’s game tape of their Week 8 game with Steubenville.
As is customary, Mooney also had eyes on it too. Some younger coaches were tasked with scouting the game in person at Stambaugh Stadium.
“By this point, we’ve seen just about every game on them,” Cardinals coach P.J. Fecko said. “They’re a really good football team and they’ve been battle-tested lately and have really been playing consistent on both sides of the ball.
“They’re a solid program year in and year out and although there’s a lot of similarities from year to year because of the consistency with their coaching staff, there’s always slight variations based on their talent. They do a good job varying what they do based on the talent they have, whether it’s a stronger quarterback that year or a stronger running back or receivers or whatever it might be.”
From 2007 to 2011, the Cardinals and Big Red met in the state playoffs four times, with Mooney winning four. Steubenville’s lone win came in 2008 in Canton.
Fecko doesn’t think past history, or a team’s reputation, has any effect on playoff games.
“I know sometimes that comes up maybe in the coffee shops but I’m not sure the student-athletes out there competing necessarily think that way,” he said. “They want to play anybody they have to get to the next round. They’ve worked hard all offseason and into the season to be successful and to be champions.
“They’re competitors and when the whistle blows, they’re so focused and intense, I don’t think it factors in.”
The teams have two common opponents this season. Ursuline beat Big Red 46-21 in Week 8, then fell to Mooney 29-14 a week later. And Benedictine lost to both teams, with Steubenville beating the Bengals 28-17 in Week 2 and Mooney topping Benedictine 28-21 in last week’s regional final.
“Obviously, Ursuline was a very good opponent for them,” Fecko said. “We know Ursuline’s ability.”
Steubenville (9-4) earned the eighth and final seed in Division IV, Region 13 but Fecko said the Cardinals had a feeling they might see Big Red at some point.
“Given their history and their success in the past, you sure as heck wouldn’t have been counting them out in that region,” Fecko said. “I think a lot of people get caught up in what spot you’re in, 1-8, which really doesn’t matter. Just because they were an eight-seed sure as heck doesn’t mean they weren’t capable of winning the whole thing.
“Being undefeated doesn’t mean someone else is a better team. It might just mean you played a stronger schedule.”