VIENNA, Ohio (WKBN) – The high school football season is just a week away and Mathews is gearing up for a big turnaround in 2020.
The Mustangs have won just three games over the last two years and depth will once again be a problem, with just 22 total players. Last season, due to numerous injuries, they had less than 15 healthy players at one point.
“We had so many injuries that when they started coming back toward mid-season and late-season, you could tell how we picked up,” said John Protopapa, Mathews head coach. “We scored a lot more points and defensively we were a lot more solid.”
The Mustangs return six starters on both sides of the ball, led by a group of seven seniors. Sophomore QB Alex Schiavi is back under center after starting as a freshman last year. He’ll look for players such as senior Dennis Schwartz, who’s a three-year starter in the backfield. According to Coach Protopapa, one thing sets his team apart this year.
“I think it’s team speed,” he said. “I was an assistant here for four years and this is my fifth year as head coach, and I don’t think maybe but one other year out of all those years we had the team speed that we have now.”
“We’ve been working hard, players have been dedicated this offseason,” said Schiavi. “We feel like we’re on a mission this year. We want to get a lot of teams back that got us last year.”
“The offense is coming together well this year,” said Schwartz. “We got a lot of speed and speed kills, so you can’t go wrong with that.”
Up front, the Mustangs look to be improved as well, but with just seven total lineman, they’ll have to stay healthy to be effective. With so little depth, there’s little room for error. But this young team is up for the challenge.
“One hundred percent I think we can surprise people,” said Schiavi. “Teams are going to look at the schedule and be like, ‘Oh Mathews, that’s an easy win’. No, I want to go back to the days when we had Leipply and the Canter’s – when Mathews was feared, I want to go back to that.”
“Oh ya, I remember watching those guys when I was younger and I want to get back to that for sure,” said Schwartz. “Those guys were cool.”