Old faces join new ones at Mooney
Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Ron Stoops join Cardinals’ coaching staff as team looks to rebound from 4-6 season
By Dan Hiner
The Cardinal Mooney High School football team has some new faces around practice in 2019.
Well, not exactly new.
The Cardinals went 4-6 in 2019, but added a couple assistants in former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and former Youngstown State defensive coordinator Ron Stoops.
Kitchen graduated from Mooney in 2006 and played at Kent State. He played with the Browns from 2012-14 and started three games in his final season.
Stoops, a Cardinal Mooney graduate, was the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator and running backs coach for 13 seasons. Mooney went 90-27 with Stoops on the sideline and won the 2009 Division III state title and Division IV championships in 2004 and 2006.
Stoops joined Eric Wolford’s staff at YSU in 2010 and retired after the 2018 season. He works with the Cardinals’ defense and special teams as a “defensive assistant.”
“It’s a great fit,” Cardinal Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said. “Ron’s obviously a Mooney guy. With our relationship for so many years ... it’s kinda picking up where we left off.”
The Cardinals started the season 3-3 but lost three of the last four games to close the year. Their only win in the last month was a 47-14 victory over Ursuline in Week 9.
“It’s a new year. It’s a new team,” Fecko said. “Everybody we’re playing on our schedule has a new team. Obviously you learn from experiences.
“Our guys went through experiences over the last couple years and have to learn from all those and look and see where they need to be to be successful.”
When Mooney’s been good in the past, it usually starts with the offensive line.
The Cardinals lost Purdue signee Kyle Jornigan at offensive tackle and center Taso Sdregas.
However, they have center Colin Rushen and offensive tackles Kerri Hewlett and Louis Gentile are back.
“I think there’s a tiny bit of experience up there, and those are guys that are gonna have to come along in a hurry,” Fecko said.
John Murphy graduated, so the Cardinals are looking for a new quarterback. Juniors AJ Pecchia and Pat Guerrieri are competing for the starting QB job.
Jason Santisi and Chris Gruber were the team’s leading rushers last season. Seniors Dom Byrd and Michael Santisi carried the ball last season and are returning.
Nico Marchionda was Murphy’s main target last season. With Marchionda gone, Michael Pastella and Mike Scavina will be the receivers in 2019.
The Cardinals have key pieces to replace on defense. They lost linebacker Luke Fulton to Michigan State, defensive end Chereiff Jamison, Santisi and Marchionda in the secondary.
“The guys are here four years and they’re gone,” Fecko said. “Each and every year is a new team, a new chemistry, and it’s fun to develop new people.”
Santisi will try to fill some of the void in the front seven. Junior Carl Farina will play defensive tackle.
Michael Pastella played safety for the Cardinals last season and moved to linebacker for his junior year.
Seniors Andrew Armile and Scavina return at defensive back. The Cardinals still have a couple holes to fill, but Fecko said it was a product of a “tremendously competitive camp.”
Senior Andrew Philibin will handle the place kicking duties again this season.
Mooney has to figure out the punting responsibilities.