Cardinals balance family, football

By Ryan Buck


The Thanksgiving holiday has almost become just another day of practice for the Cardinal Mooney football team.

The Ohio high school playoff state semifinals fall on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Thus, for most teams, including the Cardinals, it is an important part of a game week.

Mooney, which plays Steubenville tonight in a Division IV state semifinal at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, held Thursday’s practice at the Watson and Tressel Training Site at YSU.

With about six inches of snow on the ground, the team feels very fortunate.

Even with a day off from school, a 7:30 a.m. practice meant an early wakeup call for the team.

Cardinals running back C.J. Amill planned to be at the school before the 7 a.m. bus ride to YSU.

He said the 90-minute practice is broken down into offensive sets for the first half following stretching before the practice concludes with a defensive focus.

Coach P.J. Fecko will address the team and reiterate their strategy for that week’s opponent. The bus ride back to Mooney, 10 minutes in duration, follows.

“It’s our wrap-up day,” Amill said. “It’s always a good day. It’s really quick and it gets you prepared for the game.”

Monday through Wednesday are unchanged. Fecko and his staff show the team offensive tape on their opponents on Mondays and defensive tape on Tuesdays. Practice comes after that and the nights conclude in the weight room.

Amill said he will have no part of a nap after practice. He was confident a tryptophan-induced snooze would come later in the day.

“It’s almost an advantage of being up in the morning,” Amill said. “You’re ready to go.”

He and his family, including his defensive coordinator-father Chris, will hurry home, change, and join the rest of the family for Thanksgiving dinner at his aunt’s home in Youngstown.

“Everything you can think of is there,” C.J. said. “My family is full of great cooks and they bring everything.”

After the meal, which is traditionally around 1 p.m., Amill plans on relaxing with family and watching football.

He has no rooting interest in any of the day’s games.

“All games are interesting, especially watching with my family,” he said. “I’m looking forward to all of them.”

Today, the team will meet at the school at 3 p.m., depart for Canton at 3:30 with plenty of time to arrive by 5. The Cardinals will dress and warm up before the 7:30 kickoff.

Amill says Fecko has the Thanksgiving practice planned so well, it is just another day to the team.

“Everything works out,” Amill said. “We have enough time to do the things we want outside of football, but we get a lot accomplished at practice too.”

Fecko has had plenty of time to perfect it. Thursday was his seventh Thanksgiving practice.

He says there’s no format for the day, for the day’s tasks depend on whether they would have played Friday or Saturday.

“In the playoffs, as you have done all season, you keep the same routine,” Fecko said. “There’s a sense of security there.”

It’s almost become an annual rite.

“It’s two holidays in one,” Fecko said. “They have time with both of their families. Everyone gets to be with their team — their Mooney family in the morning — and then back home to be with their blood family.”

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.