Hollywood couldn’t have authored a better script. “Coldwater-Cardinal Mooney II” debuts Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Division IV state football final at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. The game is a rematch of the 2005 D-IV state final won by Coldwater 33-9. Since then, Mooney has won 28 straight and has a senior class whose record is 52-5. Coldwater's seniors are 52-3. Something has to give Saturday.
Hollywood couldn’t have authored a better script.
“Coldwater-Cardinal Mooney II” debuts Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Division IV state football final at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. The game is a rematch of the 2005 D-IV state final won by Coldwater 33-9 in Canton. That loss is Mooney’s last.
Since then, the Cardinals have reeled off 28 straight wins, advanced to their fourth straight D-IV final and worked their way up to No. 8 nationally in the latest USA Today Super 25 rankings.
Mooney, the defending D-IV champion, has players going to Oklahoma, Penn State and Notre Dame. Ohio State has offered one of its juniors.
Coldwater has no player over 232 pounds, a few Future Farmers of America, a rabid fan base and an offense generating 44.6 points per game.
The Cavs senior class is 52-3. Mooney’s is 52-5.
Something has to give.
PEAK PERFORMANCE: Following a 35-14 Week 2 loss at home to Marion Local that snapped lengthy home and regular season win streaks, Coldwater quietly went about its business.
The Cavs finished the regular season with eight straight wins, but it wasn’t until a 59-52 triple-overtime win against Kettering Alter in the regional semifinals that people started to take notice again. Most had Alter penciled as Mooney’s eventual opponent.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” Coldwater coach John Reed said. “We’ve gotten better and better as the season’s gone on. We didn’t really know how good we were until we played Kettering Alter and they certainly put us to the ultimate test. We found out then, though, that we can play at the high level that it takes to get to a state championship game. The key is we’re playing the best football we can possibly play right now.”
Subtract the Alter game from the playoff equation and Coldwater has thrashed its other three postseason opponents 162-42.
CHARGE: The Cavaliers explosive offense is fueled by a slew of junior skill players and the emergence of a solid line.
“I think the thing that has happened is that the offensive line has matured,” Reed said. “We didn’t have any starters back on the offensive line and when the season started we didn’t have the experience it takes to run the offense we run but those young men have matured and remained healthy. We’ve had some outstanding play from our wide receivers and our quarterback, junior Cory Klenke, has developed along with the offensive line. The maturity and development of the line and quarterback has allowed us to get to the place where we’re scoring as many points as we are.”
Coldwater has only scored less than 35 points once, and that came in a season-opening 21-7 victory over Kenton.
Klenke has completed 155-of-260 passing attempts for 2,394 yards and 29 TDs. He’s tossed 13 interceptions. Klenke is also the team’s second leading rusher, having tallied 621 yards and four TDs on 88 carries.
Ryan Geier, Coldwater's lone senior starter among the skill positions, is the Cavs main receiving threat (52 receptions, 994 yards, 11 TDs).
“They are a team that scores a whole bunch of points and racks up a whole bunch of yards rushing and passing,” Cardinal Mooney coach PJ Fecko said. “It’s an offense that puts up incredible displays of scoring and I don’t think you can stop them. You just hope to slow them down.”
UTILITY MAN: In addition to the line, receivers and Klenke, Coldwater has also gotten a boost for junior running back Tony Harlamert. Harlamert has 764 yards and 27 TDs on 124 carries and has also logged 756 receiving yards and 10 TDs on 51 receptions. Doubling as a defensive back, Harlamert has eight interceptions.
“I was so pleased to see that he was selected first team (Northwest District) as a utility back because I don’t think there could be a better description of him than that,” Reed said. “He serves so many purposes. He runs the ball so well, he runs great patterns, he catches the difficult ball, he plays defense and he’s an outstanding return person. He’s one of those special people.”
SIZE DOESN’T MATTER: Coldwater’s dominant line play – on both sides of the ball – is somewhat shocking considering the Cavs have no player over 232 pounds on their roster. The starting offensive line goes 186, 198, 232, 224 and 217 pounds. The defensive line is even smaller, weighing in at 199, 204, 186 and 178.
For comparison, Mooney’s OL weighs 295, 294, 261, 245 and 287. Its DL is 215, 261, 185 and 266. Mooney linebacker/running back Michael Zordich weighs more (237) than any Cavalier.
“We’ve been undersized ever since I’ve been here,” Reed said. “We just don’t have those big kids. You drive three miles down the road and St. Henry has those guys that are 6-5, 250 and we just don’t have those kids. There must be a line of demarcation somewhere in between where they’re not allowed to crossover.”
Quickness and cohesion are the Cavs strengths.
“Anyone who knows anything about football knows that there needs to be a great cohesiveness among one another on the OL, particularly when you throw the ball as much as we do,” Reed said. “You have to have a feel for what the guy next to you is going to do and these guys have that feel. They’re not going to blow anyone off the ball, but their tenacity and passion for doing what we do has served itself well.”
UNDERDOG: Despite Mooney being the favorite among the masses, Reed said his team hasn’t grasped the underdog role or taken kindly to it. The Cavs are immune to such talk.
“Haven’t even thought about that,” Reed said. “We’re just pleased we’re playing as well as we are and we’re pleased with the opportunity to be playing for a state championship again. I don’t think too much about that kind of stuff. That’s more for you (media) guys to write about. We’re just trying to get ready to play a game.”
GETTING TO THE BALL: Coldwater’s defense has been overshadowed by its offense, but that unit is noteworthy in its own right. In 14 games, the Cavs have allowed more than 14 points once (to Alter).
Junior linebacker Adam Homan (the younger brother of current Ohio State LB Ross Homan) leads the team with 113 tackles. Senior linebackers Justin Bruns and Mark Steinbrunner are second with 108 tackles each.
Senior tackle Tyler Kunk, a two-time state wrestling qualifier, spearheads the defensive front with 87 tackles, including 15 for loss. Klenke has a team-high nine interceptions.
“They play great team defense and are aggressive,” Fecko said. “They bring it every single play and make big plays. They get a ton of people to the ball and haven’t really giving anything up to opposing offenses. It’s a daunting task for us.”
SIMILAR SITUATION: Prior to the 2005 state final, Mooney lost its starting quarterback in the state semifinals and had a fresh face taking snaps against Coldwater. This postseason, the Cards lost their signal caller in the regional semifinals.
Senior Danny McCarthy, one of the state’s top players and a threat to win Mr. Football, hurt his neck during the first quarter of Mooney’s regional semi victory over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and finished the game. The Notre Dame recruit has not played the last two weeks and is likely not going to see action Saturday.
McCarthy rushed for 1,219 yards and 18 TDs on 154 carries this season and threw for an additional 434 yards and five TDs. He doubled as a star defensive back.
“Dan is obviously an outstanding player,” Fecko said. “Anytime you lose an athlete and leader of his ability it’s never easy to replace. It is a team sport though. There’s a lot of other guys on the team.”
In McCarthy’s absence, senior Tim Marlowe has taken snaps. Marlowe, who has more receptions and receiving yards than pass attempts and yards, has completed 3-of-7 passes for 57 yards and a TD in his two games. He’s also rushed for 206 yards and 3 TDs on 25 carries.
STRAIGHT FORWARD: It’s no secret that Mooney is going to line up and pound the Cavaliers with its running game. The Cards had two backs over 1,000 yards this year and another with over 900.
“(We do) a little bit of everything,” Fecko said. “We spread it around pretty good and have run it a bunch of different ways out of a bunch of different sets. Each game and each week we’ve taken on a new identity and it’s worked well so far. You name a way you can run it and we’ve done it.”
Senior Brandon Beachum, a Penn State recruit, leads the team with 1,569 yards and 17 TDs on 244 attempts, while Zordich, who’s also headed to Happy Valley, has 973 yards and 10 TDs on 129 attempts.
SEEING RED: Defensively the Cardinals are led by Zordich and senior Taylor Hill (Oklahoma). Zordich has a team-high 109 tackles and 16 TFL. Hill has 95 tackles and 14 TFL.
Mooney allows 7.9 points per game.
“The pressure they are going to bring,” Reed said when asked what concerns him with Mooney’s defense. “They are going to pressure us no doubt about that. Their physical play and athleticism is going to be something we have to deal with and whether or not we can contend with that will determine if we can stay in the ballgame or not. If we can’t handle their pressure we’ll have a hard time.”
DIFFERENT BREED: Although a D-IV school, Mooney has made waves nationally this season with an extended stay in many national polls. After watching film, Reed would vote for them too.
“The thing that jumps off the films is their athleticism on both sides of ball,” Reed said. “Obviously they have great, great players and they’ve played against great teams throughout their schedule. They are like so many other teams playing at this point. They don’t have to take their game to a different level, they’ve already played at the level it takes to compete for a state championship.”
NOT PLAYING REVENGE CARD: Don’t expect Fecko to preach publicly about the 2005 state final and paying the Cavs back for the Cards last lost. That may be a discussion during practice, but not something that the coach sees as important as Xs and Os.
“(Playing Coldwater again in the final) is a unique situation,” Fecko said. “(Coldwater) was the last team that we lost to, but for preparation and different things like that, there’s definitely not a revenge factor. The game of football is much more complex than that and it takes more than just revenge to beat a team like Coldwater.”
ODDS ARE: When asked what the betting line of Mooney throwing more passes than Coldwater would be should Vegas post it, Fecko didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I wouldn’t take that bet,” Fecko chuckled. “That wouldn’t even be on the board.”
TRADITION: Both Coldwater and Mooney have storied traditions.
The Cardinals are making their ninth appearance in the state finals and looking for their seventh title. Mooney has been in the playoffs 21 times.
Coldwater is making its fourth appearance in the state finals and has a string of 11 straight postseason appearances, which ranks third best right now in the state behind only Cleveland St. Ignatius (20 straight) and Columbus DeSales (14 straight). Newark Catholic has also been in the playoffs 11 straight years.
Head Coach: John Reed
Record at School/Yrs: 142-28/13
Conference: Midwest Athletic
State Playoff Appearances: 13
State Championship Game Appearances: 4
State Titles: 1 (last championship 2005)
All-Time Playoff Record: 30-11
Final ONN/Ohio High Power Poll Ranking: 7th
Points Per Game: 44.6
Opponents Points Per Game: 13.8
2007 Regular Season
Kenton W, 21-7
Maria Stein Marion Local L, 35-14
@New Bremen W, 49-7
@Anna W, 37-8
St. Henry W, 42-0
@Rockford Parkway W, 35-14
Minster W, 60-0
@Versailles W, 49-14
Fort Recovery W, 45-7
@Delphos St. John’s W, 51-7
Plain City Jonathan Alder W, 43-14
Kettering Archbishop Alter W, 59-52
Clarksville Clinton-Massie W, 63-14
Williamsport Westfall W, 56-14
YOUNGSTOWN CARDINAL MOONEY (14-0)
Head Coach: P.J. Fecko
Record at School/Yrs.: 71-27/8
Conference: Steel Valley
State Playoff Appearances: 21
State Championship Game Appearances: 9
State Titles: 6 (last championship 2006)
All-Time Playoff Record: 42-14
Final ONN/Ohio High Power Poll Ranking: 1st
Points Per Game: 30.7
Opponents Points Per Game: 7.9
2007 Regular Season
Mentor W, 21-10
Monroeville Gateway, PA W, 27-6
@Akron Archbishop Hoban W, 34-0
Warren G. Harding W, 49-0
Mentor Lake Catholic W, 40-14
Buffalo St. Francis, NY W, 21-0
@Cleveland Benedictine W, 31-17
@Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary W, 21-17
Youngstown Ursuline W, 37-14
@Columbus Bishop Watterson W, 28-0
Coshocton W, 30-6
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary W, 28-7
Steubenville W, 35-20
Marion Pleasant W, 28-0