Despite injuries, setbacks, and challenging schedules, coaches for all six diocesan high schools football teams are hopeful for improved records and births in the playoffs.
As the mid-season mark approaches, the combined record for the six schools—Ursuline High School (Youngstown), Cardinal Mooney High School (Youngstown), John F. Kennedy High School (Warren), Canton Central Catholic, Saint John School (Ashtabula) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Louisville)—stands at 11-13. Yet all the coaches—including two first-year head coaches—contend that their respective teams are improving each week.
Below is the mid-season gridiron report for Cardinal Mooney High School. You can find detailed reports on the other schools here: Ursuline High School, John F. Kennedy High School, Canton Central Catholic, Saint John School and St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
Cardinal Mooney High School football team looks to build on last year’s progress
Coming off their best season in years, the Cardinal Mooney High School football team is hoping to build upon last season’s success, according to head coach, Carl Pelini.
In the playoffs in Region 17 of Division V, Cardinal Mooney won its first two games and advanced to the regional finals, before losing to eventual Division V champion Canfield South Range.
“We played well in all our games,” Pelini noted, losing a number of closely fought contests—mostly against bigger schools. He attributed much of the improvement to the arrival last year of assistant coach Rick Shepas, who, like Pelini, is a Mooney graduate with extensive coaching experience at the high school and college level.
“Rick, as offensive coordinator, focused on the offense and I focused on the defense,” Pelini said, “and we learned from each other.”
For this season, Pelini has had to make up for notable graduation losses—“including all three of our linebackers:” Alec Delsignore (Ohio State University), Tino Merlo (Kentucky University) and Adam Garloch (Bowling Green University).
Yet Pelini is encouraged by the players who have returned. In the backfield, senior Ashton O’Brien returns for his third year as starting quarterback. “He has developed over the years.”
Others in the backfield are senior Noah Thomas, sophomore Cam Paige and junior Aidan Radinsky.
Mooney also retained some of its wide receivers from last year, including Ty Reali, a senior, junior Carlos Gomez and sophomore Tyon Flowers. Senior Matt Kay, who missed last season due to an injury, is back and healthy, Pelini said.
On the offensive line, Mooney is operating with a combination of veterans and less experienced players.
Chris Flora, a senior, is a third-year starter, Pelini said. “Will Desmond, a senior, is back at tight end.” Jonah Wods, a senior, emerged as the center last year, “but he’s going to be playing offensive tackle this year.” Senior George Gabriel, who played elsewhere on the line has stepped in as center.
For the defensive line, Pelini has been employing Desmond and Jeff Brenner at defensive end.
To make up for the graduation losses in the linebacker corps, Pelini said, he has employed Howell and Thomas in addition to their offensive duties—both of whom having seen some action as linebackers last season. Javier Edwards, a junior, is also seeing action there .
In the defensive backfield, Peilini is working with the veteran Reali at safety and a number of others.
While considering this year’s prospects, Pelini said, “we’re a similar team to last year’s,” with a combination of strengths and gaps, experience and inexperience. One difference will be that Mooney will be competing in Division IV—as opposed to Division V, as they had for a few years.
“We’re not a very big school anymore and we’re playing schools bigger than us,” Pelini explained, noting that six of the ten games scheduled are against schools in either Division II or Division III.
This season, Mooney is 2-2, having won their opener against Mentor Lake Catholic but lost the next game to Cleveland powerhouse Villa Angela/St. Joseph. The next week, the Cardinals lost a heartbreaker to the perennial power Steubenville Big Red but bounced back by defeating Clyde, from Sandusky County.
Remaining opponents include Lutheran East, traditional area rivals Boardman and Chaney—each of whom defeated the Cardinals last year—regional power Warren Harding and Youngstown East. “East is playing better,” Pelini said.
The regular season concludes against arch-rival Ursuline High School.