Cardinal Mooney survives setbacks in Poland
By Brian Dzenis
Cardinal Mooney kept its head when things came apart.
The Cardinals lost quarterback and standout linebacker Antonio Page in the first few plays of Friday’s Week 11 contest against Poland. The home crowd at Dave Pavlansky field was excited to watch the Cardinal offense stumble about in the first half. They also liked seeing Mooney squander a chance to go up by two scores, but the Cardinals lost neither their cool nor the game, beating Poland 13-7 in a Division IV regional quarterfinal.
“At first, we were a little shaky, we weren’t really locked in,” Mooney backup QB John Murphy said. “Once we got the points on the board, we started locking in. They didn’t score and we won the game.”
Andre McCoy scored the go-ahead touchdown 3:39 left in regulation with a 7-yard touchdown run. The run capped off a drive that began from the Mooney 19.
“It was just the offensive line. They picked up the key blocks to let me find holes in the defense,” said McCoy, who finished with 120 rushing yards.
Mooney’s offense got a little bit of help on that drive from a Poland side that did not do well in the cool-head department. Poland held Mooney to a third-and-nine at their own 32. Defensive end Alec Catsoules had a Mooney rusher dead to rights for what would have been his fifth tackle for a loss in the game. He made the tackle, but linebacker Eric Shipsky was flagged for an unsportsmanlike on Poland and that stop became a 15-yard gain.
“I was really disappointed,” Poland coach Ryan Williams said.
Poland was later called for a facemask, then McCoy broke off a 28-yard gain to set up the TD.
“They did a pretty good job,” Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said. “I think people stepped up and did a good job of showing some grit and battling and slugging it out.”
Page barely played, but recovered three fumbles for the Cardinals (7-4). He appeared to get hurt while recovering his first, a Poland fumble on the opening drive of the game. He went in at quarterback for the Cardinals’ first series, but his first two snaps went past him. He recovered both and had a carry for eight yards before coming out.
“We had to kind of reshuffle everything and get our guys out of the shock of him not being there,” said Fecko, who said he didn’t know what injuries Page sustained.
Murphy replaced Page and played the role of game manager. Mooney had only one first down in the first half. The Cardinals’ first score in the final minute of the second quarter came when Brent Weaver intercepted Cole Kosco, returning the ball to Poland’s 15. Murphy’s first pass was a 13-yard completion to Nico Marchionda for a touchdown.
“I was nervous for the first few plays, but then we started rolling and it was a good time,” Murphy said.
Mooney got the ball back to start the second half and burnt more than half the third quarter driving to Poland’s 15 before stalling out. Andrew Philibin missed a 25-yard field goal attempt.
Poland’s lone score came on Dante Romano’s 16-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. The Bulldogs (8-3) made it back to the playoffs after missing out last year.
“Last year wasn’t Poland football and we restored it to what it normally is,” Romano said. “We did our jobs and did the best that we could.”