On The Lighter Side: ‘It’s Mooney Time’ For 8-0 Irish


Gry Housteau’s “On the Lighter Side” column

A solid defensive effort helped Ursuline to score 23 second-quarter points en route to a 40-6 victory over the Buchtel Griffins on Thursday night.  The Irish forced five turnovers in all and played solid on special to improve their record to 8-0 on the campaign.  Up next for Urusline is their arch-enemy Cardinal Mooney Cardinals in the 50th renewal of Youngstown’s Holy War.

Week eight of the high school football season got underway with a light schedule of games around the state of Ohio on Thursday night.


Youngstown Ursuline continued their impressive play this season with a 40-6 victory over the Buchtel Griffins from Akron at Stambaugh Stadium on the campus of Youngstown State University.


The Irish from D-V, Region 17 have been solid favorites all season long to get back to the state championship game after falling to Maria Stein Marion Local, 20-14, last season in the state title contest.  That bitter loss has been a big motivating factor for the Irish for this season.


“It’s something that, all off-season, our kids talked about,” said Ursuline head coach Dan Reardon.  “The coaches didn’t even really have to talk about it. The kids talked about it and they were very motivated the entire off-season as a result of it.  We went through an entire winter, having had a great season last year but we had an empty feeling in our stomach because we didn’t finish the job and we were very close to it.  And I think any time you do that, if you’re a competitor at all, it’s going to motivate you.  And I think we have a lot of competitors on this football team.”


Up next for the Irish are the 6-1 Cardinal Mooney Cardinals, Ursuline’s arch-rival who they share the same home field with.


Like Ursuline, Mooney was on the losing end in the D-IV state championship game last year against the Coldwater Cavaliers, 28-27.  But first the Cardinals have to face the Irish from Akron St. Vincent St. Mary on Saturday night and then it’s game on.


“It’s Mooney time.  It’s Mooney time.”


That was the chant that could be heard from the Ursuline players on the field after their win over the Griffins.


It’s the 50th anniversary of the Holy War in Youngstown.


“You just got to be there to witness it.  That’s all I can say,” said Darrell Mason when he was asked after the Buchtel win to comment on their upcoming game with Mooney.  “I ain’t going to say anything good or bad.  You just got to be there to witness it.”


Mason is Ursuline’s senior running back/linebacker who, once again this season, has been hampered by the injury bug.


“Right now I’m fighting a little ankle injury,” he said.  “But after that I’m okay.”


It wasn’t until late in the third quarter against Buchtel that Mason was inserted into the game.  He promptly fumbled the football on his very first carry.  By that time, however, the game was already out of hand and the turnover did no harm to Ursuline.


“This is my first game back in three weeks,” Mason said.  “I played a little bit of defense last week but I didn’t play on offense.  I had a minor tweak so they’ve been trying to save me.”


It’s almost hard to believe at one time, during the summer of 2007, Mason was considered by some to be the top prospect in all of Ohio in the class of 2009.  Unfortunately he’s been slowed by injuries for two seasons now.  But Mason seems to have the right attitude.


“I’m not really focused on last year, that’s in the past.  Whatever happened last year, happened,” Mason said.  “I’m worried about my senior year and we’re winning and that’s what I love.  As long as we’re winning and I’m doing what I’m doing for my team and the seniors, then I’m happy.”


Mason, who was limping noticeably in drills during the pre-game warm-ups, went right back out there on the next possession after his fumble and did rather well for himself in limited action.


“It felt pretty good to contribute and make a couple of first downs,” he said.  “It felt real good.”


And so did Mason’s ankle.


“It’s right now about 95 (percent),” he said.  “But with a couple more days of rest it will be back to 100.”


Ursuline could certainly use a healthy Mason in reserve against Mooney next Friday.  The Irish didn’t exactly set the world on fire offensively against Buchtel.


“We’re 8-0 but, I think that we have a lot of work to do.  We did not play very well offensively.  That’s an understatement,” Reardon said.  “We played like an average football team tonight offensively.  Our defense and special teams played very well I thought.  There’s definitely some things that we need to get better at and tonight it was mostly on offense.”


The running back situation seems to be a strong point for the Irish at this time even without Mason in the mix.


“We’ve been repping two or three guys there all year and we’re comfortable with all of them,” Reardon said.  “Darrell Mason got a few carries tonight, he’s been out for a couple of weeks and we wanted to get him a few carries to see how he reacted.  He ran pretty hard.”


A pair of juniors, Nico Irizarry and Alan Jones, split the bulk of the carries against Buchtel.  Irizarry took the first offensive play of the game for Ursuline and raced 67 yards to set up a field goal on Ursuline’s opening drive after Buchtel had a very impressive 15-play scoring drive that covered 70 yards and put them on top, 6-0, to start the game.


“Nico has started for the past several weeks,” Reardon said.  “Nico is a very good football player and he and Allen share reps.  We look at productivity, we look at practice and all those things figure into it and at this point in time Nico is our starter.”


Mason, for now, is the odd man out. Because of the injury.


“I feel for the kid because he’s a good football player and he got injured in the Massillon game and he was a big reason why we won the Massillon game,” Reardon said.  “It was a big, hard-hitting physical football game and he was injured in the process and I feel for him.  He’s dying to be out there.  He wants to be out there every play on offense and every play on defense and he hasn’t been able to up to this point.


“But I thought he looked pretty good tonight.  He ran hard and he had three or four runs I think for five or more yards.  So we’ll see how he reps this week (in practice) and we’ll see how many reps we can get him next week.”


Ursuline currently has one of the best players in all of Ohio in the class of 2010 now.  Jamel Turner had 23 sacks as a sophomore and he seems to be having the same kind of success again for the Irish on defense this year.


“He does what he does,” Reardon said.  “He gets two or three sacks, it seems like, every game.  He pressures the quarterback.  He causes interceptions when quarterbacks are flushed with him chasing them half the time.  And the other thing he does, is people are concerned about him and that frees up other guys.  And Dominique Cole is having a very good year for us at the other outside linebacker (position).” 


Mooney became the immediate focus for Reardon and the entire Ursuline team the very second that zeroes showed on the scoreboard.


“Right now we’re 8-0 and we’re a football team that needs to improve,” the coach said.  “I know they’re a very good football team, I know it’s going to be a hard-hitting football game and we’re going to have to play a very good football game to beat them.  They’re a very talented team, they’re a very well-coached team and I think for our team to get the respect that it deserves we need to beat Cardinal Mooney.  I think our kids know that and I think our kids feel that way and we’re going to find out next week.”


There’s definitely a lot for Reardon to feel good about his team going into week nine.  And his defense is certainly one thing.


“I feel like we have a lot of guys who play defense how it’s supposed to be played.  They like to hit, they run, they tackle, they do all of those things,” he said.  “That’s something that we’ve hung our hat on all year.  We’re a pressure defense and if you’re playing good defense, you’re going to have a chance to win.  And that’s something that I feel like every year we’ve gotten a little bit better defensively and I think this defense has a chance to be the best defense that we’ve had here.”    

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