YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – For the first time ever, Cardinal Mooney and South Range will meet on the football field and it will be with a spot in the Division 5 Region 17 final on the line.
“To get to this point, it is pretty exciting,” says South Range head coach Dan Yeagley. “The kids are very excited and it is rewarding for all their hard work and everything else to get to this point.”
“It is a big moment for both schools,” Cardinal Mooney head coach Carl Pelini says. “For us, this senior class has really stayed invested in their four years.”
The programs have been on different paths the last few years. South Range has been to back-to-back Regional Final trips, whereas Mooney is looking for its first trip to the Elite Eight since 2013. Both teams believe their regular season slate have them ready for a big playoff game like this.
“We prepare ourselves by playing one of the most difficult schedules in the state,” Pelini says. “Loaded mostly with Division II teams. And we feel like that prepared us for the playoffs.”
“The NE8 prepared us, our league play prepared us for playoffs and it showed the first two rounds,” says Yeagley. “We were prepared for what they threw at us and I think that is the same this week.”
Mooney is just one of four 13-seeds still left alive across all seven divisions.
But the Raiders say, regardless of the seed, you can’t sleep on the Cardinals.
“It is a great chance first of all to play a team like Cardinal Mooney and you walk in their gym and see state championships right in front of you,” South Range senior quarterback Billy Skripac says. “Playing a team or a program like that, that is as historic as they are, it is going to be a really good matchup.”
Although the Raiders might now pack the same historic punch as they do, Mooney knows they have their hands full against a team thay has won by double digits in every single game.
“They are a great football team,” says Pelini. “Great at the quarterback position, they have really good receivers, hard running RB and a good line. Defensively, they play as fast as anyone we have played, so it is going to be a heck of a challenge.”
“Mentally, we have to be there,” senior fullback Caleb Beachum says. “Physically, we always bring it so if we bring it physically and we are there mentally, we should be able to execute and come out with a W.”
The two teams battle Friday at Girard’s Arrowhead Stadium with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.