On a Saturday afternoon that more resembled early July then early October, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney wore down Cleveland Benedictine en route a 31-17 victory. The well conditioned Mooney team used its potent running attack and attacking defense to build a 28-point lead and hold on from there.
With the game time temperature nearing 90 degrees, Mooney head coach P.J. Fecko and his team adjusted well to the heat.
“It was extremely hot and we’re not used to that in October,” said Fecko. “Our kids are well conditioned, we settled in well. We were just focused on getting three yards a carry.”
Once Mooney settled in, they were picking up much more then just three yards a carry.
On Mooney’s first offensive series, the Cardinal’s physical offensive line began the process of wearing down the Benedictine front. This catholic school’s own version of the Holy Trinity, NCAA D-1 College recruits, Dan McCarthy (Notre Dame), Michael Zordich (Penn State), and Brandon Beachum (Penn State), led the way.
The Cardinals marched on a 15-play, 81-yard drive, capped off by Zordich’s 1 yard rush for the game’s first score. The drive was helped along by two big third down conversions, each on quarterback draws by McCarthy, once on a third and nine, and again on a third and five.
The next time Mooney got the ball, the offense really settled in, overwhelming the Bengal defense. Starting from their own 8 yard line, it took Mooney just five plays to reach the end zone. Beachum broke off a 36-yard run, and three plays later, finished off the drive with a 26-yard run, spinning and cutting through the Benedictine defense.
Mooney added one more score before halftime when McCarthy returned a punt 56 yards for a touchdown.
Mooney consistently wore down Benedictine both offensively and defensively. Benedictine’s offense started out well, but could not finish off drives. Each of the Bengal’s first two drives got into Mooney territory, but each time Mooney answered the call and halted the Bengal drives.
Mooney defensive linemen, John Simon credits the coaching and conditioning for keeping Mooney fresh in the heat.
“We’ve got a great strength and conditioning coach in Mark Lyden who really gets us ready,” Simon said. “But they played tough the whole game and we had enough to make the stops.
On the last series before halftime, Benedictine’s offense got renewed life.
Eager to put points on the board before the break, The Bengals took to the air, as quarterback John Hromulak hit Anthony Urbania on a 44-yard pass completion. Only another Mooney D-1 recruit, Taylor Hill (Oklahoma), was able to save a touchdown. However, Benedictine was unable to push into the end zone, and the settled for a 27-yard field goal by Josh Steigerwald to make the score 21-3 at halftime.
Coming out in the second half, Mooney seemed to be eager to put the game away. Getting the ball first on offense, Brandon Beachum again had a long run to set up a score, a 31 yard rush inside the Bengal 15. This time though Benedictine was able to hold Mooney to just a field goal from Ed Reese that pushed to score to 24-3.
On the next possession, again Benedictine was able to move into Mooney’s end of the field, but Hill sacked Hromulak forcing a punt and Mooney went for the icing on the cake.
For only the second time on the game, McCarthy attempted a pass. His only completion on the day was good for a 59 yard pitch and catch to Zordich to the Bengal 29. On the next play, McCarthy finished it off himself with a 29 yard run stretching the lead to 31-3.
Benedictine kept on fighting into the fourth quarter. Marty Sweeney for the Bengals picked up a fumble by Ray Vinopal and returned it 64 yards for the first Bengal touchdown of the day.
Later in the quarter, a punt return by Jason Pinkston to the Mooney 17 yard line set up another Bengal score on a 7 yard run from Urbania, cutting the lead to two scores at 31-17.
But time would run out on the Benedictine come back attempt as Mooney held on for the win.
Mooney amassed 298 yards on the ground. Beachum led the way with 12 carries for 143 yards and a score. McCarthy finished with 10 carries for 88 yards and one touchdown, 59 yards passing, and 1 punt return for a touchdown.
Mooney’s victory improves their record to 7-0 and sets up a showdown when they travel to Akron to take on St. Vincent St. Mary who also stands at 7-0. Benedictine (4-3) will try to shake themselves from their current three game losing streak next week when the host 6-1 Walsh Jesuit.