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Mooney controls line of scrimmage, Struthers

November 16, 2013
By JOHN VARGO - Tribune Chronicle (jvargo@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

NILES - Controlling the line of scrimmage was a major key for both Cardinal Mooney and Struthers on Friday night.

Both teams - the third-seeded Cardinals and the No. 2 seed Wildcats - predominately ran the ball coming into Friday's Division IV, Region 11 semifinal at Eastwood Mall Field at Bo Rein Stadium.

But the Cardinal Mooney defense suffocated Struthers' running attack during a 42-14 victory.

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The Cardinals' win puts them in next Friday's Division IV, Region 11 final against fifth-seeded Cleveland Benedictine, which beat top-seeded Chagrin Falls, 52-35. The site for the regional final is yet to be determined.

Struthers (9-3) was held to nine carries and minus-2 yards at halftime and 23 carries of 32 yards at the end of the game. Luke Witkowski paced the Wildcats with 10 carries for 22 yards.

"I think we did a good job up front of controlling the line of scrimmage," Cardinal Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said. "I think our guys did a great job defensively of being deployed in all the right spots. It didn't give them much room to run anywhere."

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Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Cardinal Mooney’s C.J. Amill (2) breaks the tackle attempts of Struthers’ Marcus Donnadio and Anthony Farkas (28).

Cardinal Mooney (8-4) had plenty of room to run - amassing 384 yards on 43 carries.

C.J. Amill's two third-quarter scores of 57 and 47 yards put the game out of reach for the Wildcats. Amill had a game-high 13 carries for 154 yards and three scores. Mark Handel added 16 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown.

"We expected what they did on offense and executed extremely well," Struthers coach Curt Kuntz said. "On defense, they made us play left-handed and we did. They were planning to take away the run and they did, and they tried to get us to beat them with the big plays.

"We executed a couple times."

Struthers quarterback Gary Muntean, who was 14 of 22 for 148 yards and two scores and an interception, connected on some big pass plays - three went more than 20 yards.

"He did a great job not only tonight, but all year," Kuntz said.

Muntean threw an 8-yard strike to Austin Yemma with 6:05 left in the second half, pulled the Wildcats within seven at 14-7.

Then, Cardinal Mooney drove 11 plays in 89 yards - capped by Jon Saadey's 8-yard pass to Christian Lowery with 40.4 seconds left.

"We did a good job of controlling the tempo in the first half," Fecko said. "When there were some momentum swings here or there, we were able to shift it back really quick and keep that momentum and field position on our side."

Saadey was 4 of 7 for 61 yards with a touchdown and interception.

"We did a great job of keeping them off balance," Fecko said. "They gave us some spots here and there. They were committing a lot of people to the line of scrimmage and leaving some weak spots open that we hit some big passes on and able to scoot for some yards after that. And, our guys did a great job of punching it in."

After the game, Kuntz went around to his players to tell them how proud he was of their performance this season. This is a Struthers program that made the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

"From where we were to where we are now, I think we can hold our heads extremely high," Kuntz said.

As for Cardinal Mooney, it is proud of shutting down Struthers running attack - despite giving up almost 150 yards passing to Muntean.

"It all depends on the team you're playing and what they like to do," Fecko said. "We'd rather have him 150 yards throwing than both of their backs 150 yards rushing. Obviously, there's a give and take. Struthers is a good football team. There's no secret to that. They do things to put them in position to score points and stop people as well."