CARDINAL Mooney's football team hasn't won eight state titles by accident.
The Cardinals, who recently won the Division III state championship in 2011, have had losing seasons you could count on one hand.
For Cardinal Mooney, 2012 was one of those instances.
Those outside the program were wondering if the Cardinals would rebound from a 3-6 mark.
Cardinal Mooney coach P.J. Fecko saw his returning players start the comeback to Cardinal football during the offseason.
"It was evident all through the winter workouts, the spring and in the summer," he said. "I think our seniors have done a great job of creating positive chemistry, creating a common bond with all three classes - sophomores, juniors and seniors. It's an all-around team effort from top to bottom. They take that very seriously and our guys have done a great job in leading us in that department. They're not in it for personal gain. They're not in it for personal reward. They are the ultimate team players. It's paid off for them."
Cardinal Mooney (10-4) is playing for the school's ninth state championship when it plays Clinton-Massie (13-1) in a Division IV state title game today at 3 p.m. at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon. St. Ignatius has the most out of any Ohio high school at 11.
The Cardinals opened the season with a 2-2 mark, losing 25-0 to a very stout St. Vincent-St. Mary team in Week 4.
Senior linebacker Joey Tabachino said he saw the Cardinals start to come together in Week 5 - a 17-7 victory over Mentor Lake Catholic.
"At least defensively we saw everything was clicking," he said. "The offense was doing their part too. The offense was scoring and the defense was making big stops."
Tabachino, who was an accomplished wrestler and football player from Pope High School in Marietta, Ga., moved to the Youngstown area in the offseason. He said he couldn't be more pleased with the football aura in the Mahoning Valley.
"I was very excited to come play here. Football is very big and important here," he said. "I love it, the atmosphere. The whole Mooney family has been great to me."
Tabachino said the tradition at Cardinal Mooney is something he's never experienced before coming here.
"Definitely tougher up here. It's taken more seriously," he said. "Also, it's more of a bond. I didn't have that bond with my old team like I do now. That's what really made this enjoyable. That's why we're so successful is because we have a bond."
Today, when the Cardinals face Clinton-Massie in today's Division IV title game, last year's 3-6 mark will be a distant memory.
"We believed we had talent to go all the way," Tabachino said. "We worked hard all summer. In two-a-days, we knew we had something special. We kept that in mind no matter how bad it got. We kept our eye on the goal."