STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – The 2023 Struthers football team is doing something no Wildcat team has done before, gearing up for a week 14 playoff game, thanks to a huge win over Lake Catholic in the final seconds.
“I can’t really explain that moment, I don’t even really, I don’t think I was breathing,” Struthers head coach John Bayuk said. “I don’t really know what was happening.”
With just 15 seconds left in Struthers’ regional semifinal matchup with two-seed Lake Catholic, they had that tough decision to make.
“But I know that we made the call, our kids executed it, and it was a special moment that we all remember for the rest of our lives,” Bayuk said.
That’s when Bayuk and staff went into the bag of tricks with a play the team had perfected.
“We practice it all the time, and for them to be able to go out in that kind of moment and execute it on the big stage, that just shows you how important practice is and how much they take, how serious they take practice,” Bayuk said.
“Once we went out there we knew, we knew they called a time out, and we really knew we had it,” Struthers junior Robert Carcelli said. “I acted like I would block him for a second and he ran off with Anthony Carter, who he handed the ball to at first, and then I broke out into my corner, and I was wide open.”
Not just in practice, but in games, too. It was a throwback to week one in a win over Beaver Local, the first time they ran it successfully in-game.
“It’s the exact same play,” Bayuk said.
After that, it gave him and the coaching staff the confidence to go back to the well, one that will go down in Struthers football history, joining the 1982 and 1987 teams as the only in history to make a regional final appearance.
“There’s not a lot of words for it. It’s amazing. I mean, I have family that went to this school, and my friends have family that went to this school,” Carcelli said. “So it means everything to like we feel like we owe it to them to go out and perform every Friday and keep moving forward.”
On top of that, with more games than back then, it’s the most weeks that a Wildcats team has played in a season as they continue making history in 2023.
“It’s special, man, and really important for our football program that we’re taking steps forward, and it’s just really, it’s a great thing for our whole community in school,” Bayuk said. “And hopefully moving forward, it will be we could even get farther than week 14, 15, and hopefully, week 16.”
Struthers will take on 1-seed Canton South (13-0) at Tallmadge Larry Bagnoli Stadium in the Division IV Region 13 Final on Friday, Nov. 17.