Updated: Oct 8
On Friday night at Mollenkopf Stadium, football weather was in full effect as the Warren G. Harding Raiders looked to build a winning streak versus a one-win Boardman Spartans football team. On the first drive of the series, quarterback Chaz Coleman hit receiver Donovan McCoy on a simple hitch route and as McCoy turned up field, the ball squirted loose and Boardman's Aiden Berg picked up the ball and scored a touchdown to give the Spartans an early 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, returner Javontae Jones gave the Harding offense prime field position as he returned the ball to the opponents 6-yard line. Harding went to their wildcat formation with running back Antonio Smith, and he scored on the right side for a touchdown to tie the game back up at 7 a piece.
Harding led heading into the half 28-14 and the rest was history as Harding instilled a dominant offensive performance from quarterback Chaz Coleman, who went 14/21 for 252 and two touchdowns to 0 interceptions. Coleman was calm, cool, and collected as he led the Raiders to their second straight win and third total win of the 2023 season.
Harding will look to continue their winning streak this week versus a tough Cardinal Mooney football team that has a lot of resilience and determination. Mooney last season scored 26 unanswered points to notch a comeback versus Harding in week 8. The revenge game is this week and the game will be played at Mineral Ridge's Stadium as that is Mooney's "home turf". Expect the results to be different this time around as Harding will look to continue to stack wins.
Cardinal Mooney is 4-3 on the season, similar to what they were last year around this time when the two area teams faced off. Coach Carl Pelini is in his fourth season as head coach and has improved each year since he has taken over the program. Cardinal Mooney has an offensive coordinator who is very knowledgeable and has been a head coach in the valley along with a collegiate coach for many seasons in Rick Shepas.
While Mooney has a solid coaching staff and is sitting at 4-3 with just a few games left, it is up to the players to continue to execute and make plays when their names are called upon. Last week versus Chaney, Mooney did not make enough plays and had a lot of self-inflicted wounds that hurt them. Mooney ended up losing the contest 12-28. There is an expectation that Mooney will perform better this week after averaging 27 points per game through seven games. Their offense is explosive and that all starts with their dual-threat quarterback in Ashton O'Brien who is now a senior.
In every single season at the helm, quarterback Ashton O'Brien has improved. As a sophomore he threw for 726 yards, as a junior he threw for 2,569 yards and 20 touchdowns. This season he has been even better and continues to make plays in the air and with his legs.
O'Brien leads Mooney into a matchup where a year ago versus Warren G. Harding he struggled to get anything going in the air. O'Brien went 7 for 22 for only 63 yards and an interception. Mooney last season established a running game in the second half and just played bully ball. Their main running back rushed on 17 carries for 164 yards, a 9.6 average, and a touchdown. This season the offensive line is once again their strength and they will try to establish a rushing attack with leading rusher Adyn Paige, who is back as a junior. Last year Paige carried the ball on 129 carries for over 650 yards, a 5 yard per carry average.
Mooney's favorite offensive run play is Power. They pull the guard and wheel the H-back through. Not only that, they like to window dress with the running back orbit motioning behind the quarterback and then hitting the hole on the Power play. This is one of their more successful plays as they get a good amount of yards through the ground game with it.
Mooney also enjoys short bubbles to their receivers but one thing they do to continue the window dressing with the goal of confusing the defense, is that they take their entire offensive line one way (Train) and they throw the bubble to the right side. The linebackers see all of the lineman going one direction and pulling, they are taught to read their keys; however, they throw it the entire other way and it gains them a good chunk of yards.
If you thought that Mooney will just run Power all the way down the field and not have another play to confuse the defense, you are wrong... Coach Shepas does a solid job of setting up plays to run even more plays. They have a Power QB Keep play in which they run power and the quarterback has the option to keep the ball and can use his abilities to run and make plays. Power LT/ RT Keep is something to watch for as well.
Lastly, Mooney's offensive passing attack is something to worry about as well. With Harding struggling at times versus the pass this season, expect Mooney to hit a few short passes to gain some momentum early in this game. Mooney's favorite passing concepts are - Smash (High Low Concept - This is where your outside receivers can run 5 yard out routes and your inside receivers run corner routes. Teams also run hitches instead of the quick 5 yard out. It is considered a high low concept and is great for the quarterback to read and is a solid zone beat (cover 3 really)). Other route concepts include taking their inside receivers and running post routes, digs by their outside receivers and simple roll outs by O'Brien, just trying their hardest to get a simple check down or if nothing is there, he can run for a short gain.
All in all, Mooney's offense will be something to stop as they do a lot of different things but are very good at what they do. They will run Power until you can stop it. They will window dress you to try to confuse your defense and they will be physical up front and try to establish and set the tone early and often in this matchup.
Defensively, Mooney is very stout and last season held their opponent to only 17 points or less in 9 games out of 13. While this was last year, they are struggling a bit to get their defense to make plays and hold opponents from scoring. While Mooney secured one shutout this year, it was against a struggling Lutheran East team who is 2-5 currently. Mooney's strength is on the offensive side of the football and if their defense can get off the field a few times a game, they will win and that is part of the reason why they have a winning record and are sitting at 4-3 at the moment.
Mooney runs a good amount of man-to-man and expects their defensive backs to make plays in the secondary. Their defensive front is a 4-man and they have 2 or 3 linebackers in the box at times. It is a 4-2, 4-3 type of defensive approach and they are leaning on their bigger defensive lineman to stop the run while their linebackers can clean up when necessary.
Mooney graduated a multitude of athletes from a season ago, specifically five athletes who received offers and are currently playing college football. One thing is for certain, this upcoming Friday's matchup versus Mooney will be a physical battle between two opponents fighting for a playoff spot in week 11. I do expect that it will be low scoring even though at times both defenses have struggled versus certain opponents and schemes.
Friday night lights with Cardinal Mooney and the Warren G. Harding Raiders will be a matchup to watch. Harding is looking for revenge from a season ago after being up 17-0 and losing 26-17. Mooney will try their hardest to clean up their mistakes after losing last week to a Chaney team that Harding beat a week ago. Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot and both teams will instill their dominance and their blue-collar hard working mentality on the football field -- it will certainly be a game to watch this week.
At a Glance:
Warren Harding Raiders
Head Coach: Steven Arnold
Record: 67-57 (3-4 - 2023)
Years as HC: 12
Record Last Year: 2-8
League: All-American Conference
Defense: 3-4, Multiple
Aug. 18 - Canton McKinley - Loss - 14-33
Aug. 26 - at Akron Buchtel - Win - 20-16
Sept. 1 - Farrell - Loss - 17-24
Sept. 8 - at St. Vincent St. Mary - Loss - 28-42
Sept. 15 - at Ursuline - Loss - 20-56
Sept. 22 - Chaney - Win - 26-7
Sept. 29 - Boardman - Win - 38-20
Oct. 6 - at Cardinal Mooney
Oct. 13 - at Massillon
Oct. 20 - Austintown Fitch
At a Glance:
Head Coach: Carl Pelini
Years as HC: 4th (at Mooney)
Record Last Year: 6-7
Defense: 4-2, 4-3, Man-to-Man
Aug. 18 - at Lake Catholic - Win - 29-26
Aug. 25 - Villa Angela-St. Joseph - Loss - 21-47
Sept. 1 - at Steubenville - Loss - 14-21
Sept. 8 - Clyde - Win - 36-26
Sept. 16 - Lutheran East - Win 42-0
Sept. 22 - at Boardman - Win 38-21
Sept. 29 - at Chaney - Loss - 12-28
Oct. 6 - Harding
Oct. 13 - Youngstown East
Oct. 20 - at Ursuline
The Raiders will face Cardinal Mooney at an alternative location which is Mineral Ridge's stadium on Friday, October 6th at 7:00 p.m.
Will be sold at the gate along with online via Cardinal Mooney's website.