|Youngstown Christian Eagles||20|
Strain and Defense Push Mogadore To States
Last year the Mogadore Wildcats lost to the Youngstown Christian Eagles in the first round of the OHSAA State Playoffs. Tonight they had their shot at redemption in the Regional Finals, one game away from States.
Mogadore Coach Matt Adorni said, “They were asking for these guys, but I told them to be careful what they asked for.”
Cautious words, but the Wildcats tailback Gary Strain got just what he wanted. On Mogadore’s first offensive possession Strain took a hand-off and went 82 yards for a score on the first play of the drive.
Strain was one of the major stories of the night, as Mogadore defeated Youngstown Christian 42-20, and avenged their loss from last season. The Senior Tailback piled up 278 Yards, plus two touchdowns, to lead the Cats to their 2nd regional crown in 3 years, and the 16th in their storied history. But it was how Strain did his damage that was most impressive.
Two drives after Strain's dash for the endzone, the Eagles came out with 9 men in the box, but it didn’t matter. Strain would pick up 5 first downs by himself in that drive with carries of 12 yards, 2 yards, 4 yards, 3 yards, and 14 yards. Bryce Huth (2 TD’s) would finish the drive 15 play drive that chewed up over 7 minutes of clock, making the score 14-0 in the 2nd quarter, but it was Strain that did the damage.
With the Wildcats on their own 1, Strain took a carry out of his own endzone, and headed full steam ahead. A defender met him head on after 4 yards, but Strain gained 9 on the carry. The defender was on his facemask for the last 5 yards. That’s the thing about Strain, he’s usually the one delivering the blows, even when he’s carrying the rock.
When Mogadore had fumbled on 2 of their last 3 possessions in the fourth quarter, Coach Matt Adorni brought Strain back in to the game to close it out. He did just that. Strain gained 3 first downs on the drive, giving the Cats the opportunity to finally run out the clock.
If Gary Strain was the shining star of the game, and he was, then the Mogadore defense was the silent assassin. To the eye, they were the sub-story to Strain’s fairy tale night, but they were just impressive.
While the offense was making plays with bursts of speed, gashing runs, and precise passes, the defense was going about their business in the most efficient manner.
Strain said it best, “They were outstanding tonight. They went out there and did their business.”
The defense didn’t allow a first down in the entire first half, they forced 3 turnovers, and only allowed one score when the game was out of reach. Maybe the most telling play of the game was on Youngstown Christian’s first drive of the second half.
The Eagles were driving, finding holes on the ground, and moving the ball towards the goal line. When the Eagles were on the Mogadore one, they gave the ball to tailback Ryan Grier, he headed up the middle and was met straight on by two of the Wildcat defenders. It was the biggest hit of the night, and the ball came loose. The Cats recovered, and kept the shut out alive.
“I can’t say enough on how they swarm the football,” Coach Adorni said. “We did a lot of great things tonight.”
Swarm may be an understatement. The Cats defense stopped runs to edge, beating the offense to the spot nearly every play. They’ll need that type of play if they expect to make it to the state title game.
Next week they play Newark Catholic, who won 48-40 over Delphos St. Johns tonight, in the OHSAA State Semi-Finals.
After the win tonight, in the huddle, Adorni left his team with a message that was both congratulatory and foreboding.
“Enjoy this,” Adorni told his team. “But we are not going to have a letdown next week.”
Adorni, Strain, and members of that defense that all played so well tonight we’re in this same position 2 years ago when they, as coach Adorni puts it, “laid an egg” in the state-semis. Next week, against Newark Catholic, they have a chance to redeem themselves again.