Mathews not looking back at the past

When Leetonia comes to Mathews tonight, it brings 10 wins and years of torment against the Mustangs.

It’s safe to say the Bears have their number. Numbers, rather – 394 to be exact. Leetonia has out-scored Mathews 394-253 in the 16 games games played against each other since 1991.

That doesn’t faze Mustangs coach Mike Palumbo. Neither does last year’s 42-0 blowout.

“The past is behind us,” Palumbo said. “There’s no sense getting caught up in all that. Our energy is set on what’s next; we preach to focus on the task at hand. This week, that focus is set on Leetonia.”

Mathews is 2-0 for the first time since the 2007 season, when it was undefeated in the regular season, before falling to Gilmour Academy, 38-13, in the first round of the Division V playoffs.

That’s good history to bring up, still, it’s not important. This season is – this next game is.

“They’re all must wins,” Palumbo said, “but I think it would be great to capitalize on our momentum.”

The Mustangs scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to beat East Palestine who, like Leetonia, is a member of the Inter-Tri County League Division II. Previously, the schools were part of the Inter-County League. Palumbo was, too, as a quarterback for the Lowellville Rockets, before the ICL dissolved into the ITCL and Mathews joined the now-defunct East Suburban League.

Before Palumbo graduated in 2003, he beat Mathews four times, including 41-6 in his senior year. Palumbo, 29, was head coach at his alma mater from 2007-10 going 17-23. He also was a receivers and safeties coach at Springfield, another ITCL school.

“The ITCL is very similar to the Northeastern Athletic Conference,” Palumbo said. “They’re two good football leagues and kind of underrated in some aspects. I’m actually glad that we have been playing some of those schools because it’s a different style of football.”

He notes that the ITCL is more smash-mouth, hard-hitting and pound-it-out style, while the NAC may have faster athletes for a speedy, finesse game.

“I guess it is an advantage being on both sides of it and experiencing both leagues,” Palumbo said.

Austin Arnal, the team’s leading rusher from 2012, will be taking a bulk of the carries in tonight’s game and likely for the rest of the season. In the first game, he ran for 153 yards on 28 rushes. Evan Glancy, who suffered a separated shoulder a year ago, was banged up against East Palestine and will be limited. Glancy ran six times for 182 yards against Newbury in Week 1 and had 116 yards on 20 carries last week.

After Leetonia, the Mustangs face Western Reserve Academy – their only win from 2012.

But they’re not looking ahead (or behind), remember? If they stick to that plan it could be a Cinderella year reminiscent of 2007.

Without looking too far ahead (or behind)…