Throughout the playoffs, Cardinal Mooney coach P.J. Fecko reiterated how important it was for his team to make sure it remained sharp in what it's done to succeed the entire season.
With their eighth state championship in their grasp, you can say the players did a great job focusing on themselves. Fecko and his staff, on the other hand, sure paid attention to what the other teams were doing, and the game plans reflected that.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Cardinal Mooney running back Justus Ellis-Moore stiff-arms Springfield Shawnee defender Jalen Nelson during an 8-yard run Friday in the Division III?state championship game.
Shawnee, Mooney's opponent in the state championship game on Friday at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, featured quarterback Brad Jarzab, who is the Division III co-offensive player of the year with more than 1,500 yards rushing and passing.
Jarzab rushed for 139 yards and passed for 122, but he never had a play go more than 21 yards, and had to deal with a myriad of looks from the Mooney defense.
The strategy was apparent: Contain at all costs.
The first two drives, Mooney held the Braves to just 11 total yards, but then Jarzab began to open things up with a double-wing look from which he got yards on triple-option type plays. The change yielded a touchdown that tied the game, and Mooney moved from its four-man front.
In order to get pressure on Jarzab, the Cardinals shifted to an approach similar to what they used against spread teams Dover and Canal Fulton Northwest. Built on a three-man front, the Cardinals disguised blitzes and consequently forced Jarzab out of his comfort zone.
Defensive back Justus Ellis-Moore, defensive end Joe Stana, noseguard Austin Trgovcich, and linebacker Courtney Love all came up with sacks out of the scheme.
They also eliminated the screen plays from the Braves' arsenal. In one play, defensive tackle Carmen Lanzo read a backside screen, pulled back, and batted a ball out of the air.
In the secondary, Mooney's corners and safeties defended the posts and other deep routes, which allowed Jarzab to hit a lot of smashes and other come-back routes, but never the big play.
On offense, the Cardinals tried a different backfield combination for nearly every play in their first three drives before it became apparent tailback Roosevelt Griffin was about to have a big game.
The Braves never really moved out of their 5-2 look, so Mooney hit them with zone-blocking plays, which were never stopped. With only two linebackers, Mooney's linemen were able to effectively get to the second level, and seal big lanes for the backs.
With a ton of momentum gained after a game-tying touchdown, the Braves sacked Quinn for an 8-yard loss on the ensuing drive's first play, but the Cardinals went right back to the zone. Griffin immediately ripped off 36 yards on the left. Ellis-Moore gave Griffin a break, and ran the same exact play for another 36 yards. The drive resulted in a touchdown.
NOTES: Mooney got big plays from every phase of the game. Just to name a few: Stana had three tackles for losses including the sack. Receiver Quincy Jones caught a big pass on a third-and-8 on a slant that quarterback P.J. Quinn threw a little behind him. The catch continued a 16-play drive that ate up 6 minutes in the third quarter. Senior fullback J.T. Thiel saw a lot of action, and was a big part of Mooney's zone-blocking scheme. ... Bill Stana was a big part of Mooney's plans this year, but suffered an eventual season-ending injury in Week 2 against Boardman. He was in uniform on Friday, and was an honorary captain. ... Shawnee's Carly Gregory became the first female to score a point in an Ohio state championship game when she booted an extra point in the second quarter. ... Mooney's defense broke up eight Jarzab passes. ... Before two pass interference penalties on the final drive, Mooney only committed one penalty the entire game, a block-in-the-back infraction in the second quarter. ... One of Mooney's little secret weapons this season has been a simple quarterback sneak by Quinn, who scored twice on the play.