Blue Devils hungry to start
McDonald ready to complete some unfinished business from 2017
By Steve Ruman
Friday cannot get here soon enough as far as the McDonald High football team is concerned.
The Blue Devils players and coaches have spent the past 10 months reliving a pair of plays from the 2017 season which spelled the difference between a perfect season and an 8-2 campaign void of the playoffs.
McDonald lost to Columbiana by a point in overtime on a failed two-point conversion. It lost to Western Reserve by five points thanks to an 87-yard kickoff return with 10 seconds remaining in the contest.
‘“Our kids are hungry, they have been hungry the entire off-season,” said McDonald coach Dan Williams. “They definitely have a chip on their shoulders. They feel like there is some unfinished business to take care of.”
McDonald, one of the most storied programs in the Mahoning Valley, hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2014. It hasn’t won a playoff game since 2010.
All the pieces are in place for the Blue Devils to return to playing football into the month of November.
An offense which averaged 38.2 points per game last year returns virtually intact.
Seniors Alex Cintron and Josh Celli will lead the way for the Blue Devils. As a junior, Cintron rushed for 1,466 yards and had 215 receiving yards while scoring 23 touchdowns. Celli ran for 1,140 yards and 16 touchdowns. Junior Cameron Tucker returns after gaining 465 all-purpose yards as a sophomore.
Up front, the Blue Devils return four of five starters.
Yet while the names are the same, McDonald’s offense will have a completely new look. The Devils, known for their Wing-T offense, will switch to a spread formation this fall. Celli will make the transition from running back to quarterback.
“We just felt as though this was the time to do it, with this experienced and smart group and considering the makeup of this team,” Williams said. “Running the spread is going to give us a few more options, it’s going to open up the field for some of our play makers.”
“We’re certainly not going to abandon the run. Josh will still get his share of carries. He’s just going to have more options in terms of what he can do based on what the defense gives him.”
Like the offense, the McDonald defense returns a wealth of experience.
Seniors Zach Gray (84 tackles) and Ali Hammond (58 tackles) provide leadership at the linebacker position. Senior Cameron Stofko and junior David Berrarducci provide experience up front, while Tucker, Celli and Cintron make for a deep secondary.
“Our defense is very athletic, very hard-nosed and tough,” Williams said. “A lot of what you see on defense is what makes our offense click. Same players, same athletic talent.”
“As is always the case at a small school, most of these players go both ways, so depth and injuries are always a concern. We have to stay healthy this year.”
Logan Shields handled the kicking duties last year. He will do so again this fall, and will also likely be called upon to punt.
McDonald is always in the thick of the conference title and playoff races. With nine starters back on offense and eight on defense, the Blue Devils have to be considered a favorite to win the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference. A top eight finish in Division VI, Region 21 is also a probability.
The roster includes 12 seniors and 16 lettermen.
“This group is heading into the season with the mindset of winning every game,” Williams said. “The seniors haven’t experienced the playoffs, and that is really a sticking point. Last year they were so very close, this year they know they have to finish the deal.”