YOUNGSTOWN - "You wear me out. You wear me out."
That was the chant heard from Ursuline Irish players as they entered the locker room after Friday night's game against archrival Cardinal Mooney.
"Coach (Dan) Reardon, every time we do something wrong in practice, says we wear him out," said Ursuline senior Jesse Curry.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Ursuline’s Jesse Curry (5) gets past Cardinal Mooney’s Marcus McWilson for a touchdown run Friday night.
Curry did little wrong Friday and the Cardinals, although they tried their hardest, were not able to wear down the Irish.
Ursuline withstood four lead changes in the fourth quarter and its defense managed to stop Mooney on its final drive to escape with a 25-21 victory. It was the 57th meeting between the schools and just the 18th time the Irish have come out on top.
More importantly, the win kept the three-time defending state champions' playoff hopes alive in Division V despite having just a 3-6 record. The Cards' final drive began at their own 27 before they turned the ball over on downs at the Irish 31 with just four seconds remaining. The whole Ursuline season was riding on that final march.
"In a lot of ways it was," Reardon said. "We had our backs against the wall a couple of times tonight. But they showed resilience, toughness, character all the things coaches always preach"
Players like Curry make coaches better. The 6-foot, 203-pound tailback ran 25 times for 208 yards and all four Irish touchdowns. Out of his linebacker spot he sacked Mooney quarterback P.J. Quinn twice on the final drive.
"I played my heart out," Curry said. "And my line, oh my God, my line, I give everything to them."
When informed of Curry's rushing yards in the Holy War, Reardon had a fitting response of "Holy crap".
The Irish defense dominated things in the first half, limiting Mooney to four first downs. Ursuline drew first blood with 5 minutes, 3 seconds remaining in the second quarter when Curry capped a 12-play, 62-yard drive with a four-yard run which made it 6-0. As the half drew to a close, Ursuline's Jermaine Williams fumbled a Cards' punt but teammate Dimitri Smith-Traylor fell on it at the Mooney 44. Curry broke off a 37-yard scamper on the first play and followed that up with runs of 4 and 3 yards to give the Irish a 12-0 lead just 27 seconds before intermission.
"That was big right before the half," said Mooney coach P.J. Fecko after his team dropped to 5-3. "Obviously it was a big mistake on our part and they made a good play. All in all (Ursuline) played a good game."
The Cardinals found their offense in the second half. Joe DeNiro's interception gave Mooney the ball at the Irish 30. Four plays later Roosevelt Griffin's five-yard run and Conor Durina's extra point got the Cards within 12-7. It stayed that way until the first play of the fourth quarter when Quinn's 59-yard touchdown run gave Mooney a 13-12 lead.
That didn't last as Ursuline marched 59 yards before Curry scored from 31 yards out to make it 18-13 with 8:11 on the clock. That lead was also short-lived as Justus Ellis-Moore ran for 67 yards before being tackled one yard short of the end zone. Quinn took it in from there and then hooked up with Ryan Megyesi on a two-point pass which made it 21-18.
With their backs to the wall again, Ursuline took just 2:25 and seven running plays (four by Curry and three by Tramain Thigpen) before taking the lead for good on Curry's 13-yard run. Those were the final of the Irish 360 rushing yards, 116 which came from Thigpen on 16 carries.
"I think this was the most consistent they've been all year," Curry said of his team. "I was really proud of them. Our running backs spend a lot of time in the weight room and this is why."
Griffin carried 16 times for 99 yards for the Cards. Ellis-Moore (11-97) and Quinn (13-74) were next in line for Mooney.
But the night belonged to Curry, who knows the meaning of the Holy War.
"This is the best game," Curry said. "We've been to three state championship games but this is my favorite."