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Plenty up for grabs in Holy War

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ursuline, Mooney

set for 63rd game

By Brian Dzenis


No computer points are needed to add any additional drama to the Holy War.

Despite tonight’s football game between Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline having serious postseason implications, the Holy War exists in its own universe.

“Just hearing ‘Ursuline and Mooney’ gets me going, you can’t do anything to make it bigger,” Ursuline wideout Dakota Hobbs said. “Beating them — just like them beating us — it’s the biggest thing you can do in your season.”

Should Ursuline (3-5) lose its 63rd meeting with Mooney, the Irish could very well be eliminated from playoff contention with a guaranteed losing record. If you saw Ursuline practice, it doesn’t look like a team down on itself after losing five of the last six games.

“The assistants suggested we play music, let them relax. We’re trying some different things to get them to have a little more fun on the practice field,” Irish coach Larry Kempe said. “I think they understand that we’re better than how we’ve been playing and that’s a plus.

“They know we’re not a 3-5 football team,” he added.

As to what got the Irish in this position, it changes every week. Take their 21-14 double-overtime loss to Boardman last Friday.

“Last week, we missed 26 tackles and no team overcomes 26 missed tackles and that’s the first time we’ve done that,” Kempe said. “We probably didn’t miss 26 tackles in the previous three games.”

For Mooney (5-2), the Cardinals aren’t relishing the role of executioner.

“We try to focus on ourselves. We hear about what could happen, but to get to our goal, we need to win every night,” Mooney linebacker Ray Anderson said. “We plan on going out [tonight] and doing it again.”

The Cardinals do enjoy proving themselves as one of the area’s best teams. That case got a lot stronger after beating then-undefeated Warren Harding, 35-34. The consensus among area football experts had the Raiders winning.

“There was a lot of doubt, but in the locker room, we believed in ourselves and that goes a long way,” Anderson said. “We love each other and fight for each other. We know that no matter anybody says, we still have 48 minutes to prove who’s right and who’s wrong.”

Urusline has won four of the last six meetings in the Holy War, but Mooney leads the series 39-20-3.

“We hear they’re a very good team and we’ve seen that on film, but I feel like we’re a better team if we can play up to the competition,” Irish wideout Dawalyn Washington said.

The Irish took last year’s game, 28-6, behind a bruising running game led by Kimauni Johnson’s two rushing touchdowns. They still run the ball quite a bit, but with a offensive line boasting three sophomores, some finesse is necessary.

“As awkward as it is to say this, we don’t have the traditional Ursuline football team,” Hobbs said. “The ground-and-pound, punch-you-in-the-mouth kind of team. We can do it, but we have more skill guys and more speed.”

The playoff scenarios add little to a night that will be the center of attention in the Youngstown parochial school community.

“Over the years, it’s such a storied tradition. Folks from both sides plan trips back home to it. There’s always different functions and stuff by the different school communities and alumni,” Mooney head coach P.J. Fecko said. “It’s always been a strong tradition and it continues to get stronger each year.”

As Kempe and his players are well aware, worrying about making the playoffs won’t matter if they can’t get past the Cardinals.

“We have to focus on Cardinal Mooney, our school is focused on Cardinal Mooney, our alumni are focused on Cardinal Mooney and I believe it draws more interest than some of the other rivalries that go on the Mahoning Valley,” Kempe said. “Everybody chooses a side and I have to imagine there’s some people who want to see us both lose. Fortunately, I don’t think that’s possible.”