Youngstown Mooney claims seventh state football title; wins D-III championship


Senior RB Braylon Heard had 178 yards and two TDs in the D-III state final. (Photo by Gary Housteau)

In a championship game matching mammoth programs
featuring devastating ground games and big-time college recruits the
outcome was decided by…a punt?

Kind of.

MASSILLON – In a championship game matching mammoth programs
featuring devastating ground games and big-time college recruits the
outcome was decided by…a punt?

Kind of.

Turning what
could have been disaster into a decisive turning point, Youngstown
Cardinal Mooney punter A.J. Fox recovered a botched snap at his own
25-yardline, raced to his right and somehow got the kick away. Columbus
DeSales returner Adam Griffin caught the ball and was tackled
immediately inside his own 5. On the ensuing play DeSales fumbled and
Mooney recovered. The Cardinals scored on the next snap for a 14-0 lead en route to winning
their seventh state title  35-7 over DeSales in the Division III state
final at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

Only Cleveland
St. Ignatius (10) and Newark Catholic (8) have more state football
titles than Mooney. Cincinnati Moeller also has seven.

The game
was a rare rematch for the regional parochial powers who also met in
Week 2 with Mooney winning 21-14. This one was not nearly as close.

the ball went over my head and I picked it up I noticed that the ends
had their players blocked pretty well and that they were returning the
ball,” Fox said. “They had a return on so I decided to just kick it and
hope for the best.”

“That was huge,” DeSales head coach Ryan
Wiggins said. “It was a play that could have gone in our favor and
maybe given us some field position but then all of a sudden they pin us
deep. Mentally I think that kind of took some wind out of our sails.”

how its offense performed, DeSales could have used the potential field
position. Had the Stallions tackled Fox inside the
30, it would have been their farthest penetration into Mooney territory
in the game’s first 47 minutes. DeSales’ didn’t get past Mooney’s
41-yardline until 51 seconds remained and scored with 16 seconds left.

DeSales, averaging 283 rushing yards a game, generated 196, with 131
coming in the fourth quarter. The Stallions also fumbled the ball seven
times (lost two) and had an interception.

In the first half
Stallions quarterback Nick Gentile was limited to six yards and four
fumbles (lost one) on 13 carries. Gentile, who entered the game as
DeSales’ leading rusher with over 1,000 yards, ended the day with 107
yards on 26 carries.

“We could just never get anything going,”
Wiggins said. “Anytime we did get something going we did something to
ourselves to slow it down.”

Said Mooney head coach P.J. Fecko:
“(The defense) all year has been a big key to our success and played
well. They’ve helped us in the battle of field position and really done
a great job of swinging momentum. Every time a team would get a spark
of life our defense would do a really good job of dashing that out.”

didn’t have any trouble establishing its offense behind senior running
backs Ryan Vinapol (Michigan offer) and Braylon Heard (West Virginia
commit). The Cardinals, averaging 291 rushing yards a game, had 274.
They also passed for 109 yards. Four of Mooney’s TD drives lasted two
minutes or less.

Vinapol started the scoring with a 57-yard TD
run in the first quarter. After Alex Zordich’s 1-yard plunge following Fox’s punt, Heard tacked
on a 26-yard TD run as the Cardinals built a 21-0 halftime lead. Heard,
who finished with 178 yards on 28 carries, added a 53-yard TD run in
the third quarter,  had an 8-yard TD pass to Donald D’alesio in the
fourth quarter and added an interception. Vinapol had 70 yards on seven

The win improved Mooney’s overall postseason record to
49-16 in 23 trips. The Cardinals are now 7-3 in state title games.
DeSales, looking for its fourth state title and first since 1998, fell
to 47-17 in 20 postseason trips. The Stallions are 3-5 in state finals.

knows (Mooney is) good enough to make their own plays and you don’t
want to give them too many chances,” Wiggins said. “That’s what we kept
doing all day.”

Said DeSales senior DL Travis Jackson (Michigan
State commit): “Hats off to Mooney. They came out and executed, took
advantage of our mistakes early and put it on us.”

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