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December 1, 2009 - Joe Gorman
As rivals Ursuline and Mooney prep for their games in the state football finals Friday, both teams are looking to cap off productive decades with titles.
Mooney takes to the field in a rematch of a Week 2 victory over Columbus DeSales at 11 a.m. while the Irish tangle with Valley nemesis Coldwater at 3 p.m. in Canton.
The Cardinals will be chasing their seventh title overall and third this decade in their fifth appearance this decade in the finals. Two of their losses -- in 2005 and 2007 -- were to Coldwater.
The Irish are in the finals for the fourth time this decade and for the third straight year. They won a title in 2000 under former coach Jim Vivo and made back to back appearances in the finals in 2007 and 2008 under current coach Dan Reardon, bringing home a title last season.
Mooney is undefeated and Ursuline has three losses -- one of them to the Cardinals, a 27-22 Week 9 setback that one Mooney player said was the toughest game he ever played in, a game that wasn't decided until almost the final gun. Several turnovers that the Cardinals turned into touchdowns doomed the Irish.
Both are primarily run oriented offenses that do not put the ball up unless they have to. Mooney did not attempt a pass in their pasting of Steubenville in the semifinals while the Irish are content to dominate opponents behind the tandem of Allen Jones and Akise Teague.
Clearly, Reardon has vaulted himself into the ranks as the top Irish coach of all time. Three trips to the state finals speak for itself, and the Irish had some down times in their program in the early 1970s before Dick Angle took over and reengerized the Irish. He was largely responsible for getting them competitive with Mooney again, as they once lost regulary in the Dark Time before he came on board.
Cardinals Coach PJ Fecko deserves a ton of credit as well, but some longtme observers of the local football scene scoffed this weekend when I said he may be as good or better than legendary former Mooney boss Don Bucci, who won four titles of his own before stepping down.
Others always say the Catholic schools have a disadvantage because they draw from a larger area and there are always allegations of recruting, but with open enrollment now, there is really no such things as borders, especially for football players (Maurice Clarett, anyone?).
While it is true that tradition attracts top players to both schools, it is winning that is the dominating factor. If Chaney or East or had a similar track record, players would flock to play for those schools; players want to win.
As an Ursuline alum, it will be hard to pull for the Cardinals Friday, but chances are I'll grit my teeth and cheer them on. No matter what happens, the two programs are the cream of the crop around here and if their coaching staffs stay intact, they'll be more titles to come.
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