Mooney faces Big Red challenge, and maybe weather

Wind, sleet, snow on turf.

Salem’s Reilly Stadium, like many other sites around the state tonight, could be impacted by an early taste of winter’s fury.

Cardinal Mooney takes on Steubenville for the ninth time in playoff history starting at 7:30 p.m., in a Division IV, Region 13 semifinal football matchup.

Fifth-seeded Mooney (8-4) is powered by a dominant offensive line and a strong running game.

“Our guys are used to going straight ahead,” Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said. “It shouldn’t bother them too much. Obviously it’s uncomfortable for everyone. The wind could be a factor depending how much we get.

“In playoff runs, weather may not be a factor for us as much as others.”

One big factor for the Cardinals against Big Red (11-0), the top-ranked team in Division IV, is Mooney quarterback Antonio Page, who was injured early in a first-round game against Poland.

Will Page be back for tonight’s game?

“It’s getting a little late here, but we’ll see how it goes,” Fecko said. “That one is impossible to answer at this point.”

Mooney found its answer to Page’s absence with John Murphy entering the game last week in the Cardinals’ 13-7 victory over Poland. Nervous at first, but settling in to manage the game.

“Managed it pretty well throughout,” Fecko said.

Andre McCoy is going to have more eyes on him tonight when he faces Steubenville, especially if Page cannot go.

“He’s going to have to pull the load,” Fecko said.

It’s going to be a tall order against a Big Red team with rusher Jacob Bernard, dual-threat quarterback Javon Davis, a stout Steubenville defense that hasn’t given up more than 21 points all season, and special teams which blocked a punt and had an 89-yard opening kickoff return last week against Salem.

“They’ve been solid in all three phases of the game,” Fecko said. “They’re a really good football team. They’ve been really good up front. I think their strength is their defensive front. They’ve done a great job of stifling people all year long.

“They’ve been able to take field position because of special teams. They have no weaknesses anywhere, offensive, defense or special teams. They’re playing some really good ball right now.”