Mooney hopes to stop Lions & advance

The last time Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin and Cardinal Mooney were on the same field was Sept. 7, 1974, when ND-CL was Cleveland Cathedral Latin.

The game ended in a 0-0 tie.

When the two teams finally meet again Friday at Bo Rein Stadium, there will be a clear-cut winner in this Division IV, Region 11 semifinal. The seventh-seeded Lions (8-3), who upset second-seeded Crestwood in Week 11, faces third-seeded Cardinal Mooney (8-2) starting at 7:30 p.m.

ND-CL has a strong defense, led by a pair of linebackers in Ryan Labanc (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) and Manni Malone (5-9, 225). The pair have around 70 solo tackles apiece, accounting for a third of the team total.

Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said the Lions linebackers are strong, physical players. The ND-CL defense has held five teams to seven points or less this season, including two shutouts. One shutout was of Division III playoff team University School (38-0) in Week 3.

“Their supporting cast around them are doing some really good things, freeing those guys up,” Fecko said. “It’s been a pretty good defense for them all year of making stops when they need to.”

Offensively, ND-CL has a dual threat quarterback in Charles Forbes. He is 63-of-124 for 758 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s also had 139 carries for 689 yards and seven scores.

“You have to make sure that all 11 people on the team know where they need to be every play,” Fecko said. “If everybody can take care of their area and their assignments, it gives you a chance.

“When you overplay one or the other, they take advantage of you.”

Cardinal Mooney’s strength, as it has been throughout the years, is the running game.

The Cardinals are led the by bruising 1-2 combination of seniors Jaylen Hewlett (6-0, 240) and Ray Anderson (6-1, 213). The two combine for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“They’ve done a really good job of picking up really tough yards,” Fecko said. “They’ve done a really good job of controlling the clock and the ball for us as we’ve moved down the field.”

Mooney has another threat in its running game with sophomore Chris Gruber. The 5-6, 145-pound scatback has 39 carries for 243 yards and two scores.

“He’s a good off-speed person than can break it at any point,” Fecko said.

As always, the Cardinals’ offensive line powers this team.

Vinny Santisi (6-0, 250), Vinny Gentile (6-2, 235), Kyle Clegg (6-2, 240), Tyler Petrey (5-11, 245),  Kyle Jornigan (6-4, 290) and Alex Maxin (6-3, 280) are the interchangeable parts to this o-line. Santisi has been out since an injury suffered in the Week 9 Ursuline game, but is back Friday.

“Those are guys from the start of practice to the end are just working,” Fecko said. “It’s just drills and being physical as ever, running it over and over. I think those guys have become such a gelled unit. They work in unison. They trust each other. They rely on each other. They’ve really done a great job.”

Antonio Page, the 5-11, 195 junior quarterback, has been a great game manager for the Cardinals, Fecko said. Like Santisi, he was injured in the Ursuline contest. Page came back for a couple of plays in last week’s Hubbard playoff game, but didn’t stay in.

That leaves senior Patrick Pelini, son of Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini. He’s played quarterback for the last two games and led the Cardinals offense.

Patrick (6-1, 170) is a kick and punt returner, holder on field goals and extra points and safety. He leads the Cardinals with four INTs.

“Pelini did a good job the last two weeks stepping in, and at the end of the Ursuline game,” Fecko said.

The Cardinals have to respond this time of the year, despite the circumstances. Mooney, which has eight state championships in school history, know it’s win or go home.

As for Fecko, he’s expecting the Cardinals to improve each and every game.

“I think if you make the mistake if you get in the playoffs and level off, that’s when you get into trouble,” he said. “You’ve got to keep getting better and better because you’re opponents are. If you don’t, you obviously are going to run into trouble.”