It's been a week since Cardinal Mooney captured its eighth state championship in football, so the Victory Bell on Erie Street has had a chance to recover from the beating it took after the game.
That's also enough time to let the dust settle and reflect on one obvious truth: P.J. Fecko can flat-out coach.
A lot of eyebrows popped up back in 2000 when he was tapped to succeed legendary Don Bucci as the program's fourth coach. In a way, I understand the reaction. After all, a man in his mid-20s was about to take the reins of one of Ohio's most storied programs from a sage like Bucci.
Not only has Fecko shown that apprehension to be unwarranted, but he continues to prove that he was the man to carry Mooney into the next century.
I played football with Fecko at Mooney, so I had a little idea of the type of coach he could be. Like all teenagers, he liked to laugh and have a good time, but on the field, he was always focused - and that's why I knew he had a chance to succeed.
Four state championships later, I don't think he's gotten enough credit for his accomplishments. So many people think that Mooney wins just by stepping on the field, but Fecko is under a great amount of pressure - most of which he puts on himself, which is one of the reasons he is such an exceptional leader.
I once asked Fecko a simple question: What is the hardest thing about coaching at Mooney? He didn't tell me it was the alumni, or parents, but rather his responsibility to his players. He said that every day he steps on the field, he asks himself if he's leading these men in the right direction, and if he's reciprocating the trust they put in him.
He can answer yes because he does three things: 1. He continues Mooney's tradition of focusing on fundamental football. 2. He's guided the program's transition from the stacked I offense and 6-2 / Cover 3 defense to modern spread attacks and zone blitzes. 3. He keeps every player involved by creating an atmosphere truly reflective of the term Mooney Family.
For the program's critics to suggest anything else is an insult. Mooney's success doesn't come from anything included in the cliched invective launched its way. It comes from Fecko's leadership and dedication to a daily grind established back in 1956 that carried the Cardinals through the playoffs that included a war with Steubenville, comeback wins over Dover and Chagrin Falls, and a harrowing defensive stand to win the title.
Mooney doesn't sustain its sports programs by dipping into large tax bases, so they must be well-organized, focused and goal-oriented. It thrives on voluntary contributions from its supporters, who are always willing to lend a hand.
That's the heart of Cardinal Mooney, and Fecko is the perfect face for such an operation.