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Wildcats, Mooney happy to play in area

Struthers coach says team isn’t giving into hype surrounding game

November 14, 2013
By JOHN VARGO - Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

Ask Struthers coach Curt Kuntz if he's happy to be playing Friday's Division IV, Region 11 semifinal at Eastwood Mall Field at Bo Rein Stadium.

Ask him if he's glad the Wildcats are playing on the newly installed turf the Red Dragons' offensive juggernaut broke in this season.

Simply, the Struthers mentor is happy the Wildcats are in the postseason for the first time since 1999.

"We're happy to be playing anywhere," said Kuntz of his second-seeded Wildcats (9-2). "If they told us we had to walk to Timbuktu, we're going to start walking. We worry about things we can control. That's out of our hands. Playing there, it's great venue. It has so much history and will make for, if you want to add to the ambiance of the game. It's not only one of the best venues in our area, but for the state. We're spoiled that there's several of those stadiums around. From a state standpoint, it's one of the most historic venues that you play in."

The third-seeded Cardinals (7-4), who are usually road warriors during the regular season - traveling anywhere from Buffalo, N.Y., to Cleveland to Canton or anywhere around Ohio.

"It's definitely less chaotic, less thought-provoking, those kind of things when you're playing locally," Cardinal Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said. "You get dressed at your own place, you get on a bus and you go. Although, in the big picture of things, we're obviously quite used to traveling. Either or, it doesn't effect us any. Although, it's obviously better for everybody involved fans, players and everyone, the closer you are and the less you have to travel."

NO BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL: Kuntz said his team won't give into the hype for Friday's game.

"They're not on the social media, doing this and doing that, and making the game bigger than what it is because it still comes down to blocking and tackling," he said. "We need to get better at it. That's where our kids focus is. That's all credit to the group of kids we have. It's easy to say that and have that as your goal. It's pretty interesting we're blessed to have a group of kids that bought into doing the little things correctly and worry what they can do to get better."

Kuntz added his team makes his job easier and one of the most enjoyable of his coaching career.

"We're so blessed. I've said it so many times since June," he said. "In 17 years of coaching, I've never been around a group of kids that just want to have team success and worry about what we need to do to get better like this group."

EXTRA PRACTICE: During last Friday's 45-20 Division IV, Region 11 quarterfinal victory against John Hay, the Cardinals were able to utilize some of its second- and third-string players.

"As you go along in the playoffs, those folks benefit, not only if they get a chance to get some actual time against real-speed guys, and some varsity-type guys, which obviously is a big plus and some experience," Fecko said. "Also, you have to remember they're practicing each and every week here - more than the average high school athlete. Because a majority of the high school football players have gone home after Week 10. Every week after that is a plus for obvious reasons of advancing in the playoffs, but it's also a plus for younger folks to keep practicing and gain that practice time. It's very similar to the college level when the college teams qualify for a bowl and they get to practice all that time leading up to the bowl. Where if you don't, you obviously don't have an opportunity to practice."