By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Mogadore football found beauty in simplicity on Saturday.
After an opening possession that resulted in a three-and-out, and that head coach Matt Adorni admitted was built too much on trying to deceive its opponent, the Wildcats abruptly pivoted to a steady diet of run plays from their power package.
You can call it old-fashioned football if you want, but it was Mogadore football.
And it was winning football.
The Wildcats, who have relied heavily on their running game throughout the season but even more so in the playoffs, followed the script once again.
The result was a convincing 41-10 victory over Cuyahoga Heights in a Division VI, Region 21 Semifinal that was hosted at Twinsburg High School.
It advances the Wildcats to their second consecutive regional-championship showdown.
“After that first possession, we decided that running right at them was going to be our best bet,” Adorni said. “We went back to old-school football. We have a power package for nights like tonight. For games like tonight. It was cold and blustery and it was our kind of night for football.”
Mogadore rushed for 366 hard-earned yards against the Red Wolves, which followed ground-game performances of 414 and 275 yards in the team’s opening-round playoff victories over Southeast and Canton Central Catholic, respectively.
Mason Williams was staggeringly powerful on the night, finishing with 202 yards on just 14 carries, while Collin Lehner added 77 yards and Austin Constantine had 50 for the Cats.
The Wildcats (12-0) will now face Kirtland, which defeated Dalton on Saturday 33-0 at Nordonia High School. The Hornets have now advanced to 13 straight regional-title game, which is the longest streak in Ohio high-school football history.
The Wildcats had a streak of their own on Saturday, running off 28 unanswered points after falling behind 3-0 on the Red Wolves’ opening possession. Cuyahoga Heights (9-3) had as much success running the ball as they would for the game in its first drive and it resulted in a 29-yard field goal by Noah Wilson after Mogadore’s defense held the Wolves out of the end zone.
The 3-0 lead held through the first quarter, but the game shifted in Mogadore’s favor in the second quarter.
The Wildcats were driving as the first quarter ended and Lehner then took the first play of the second quarter and turned it into a 15-yard touchdown.
Lehner took a quick pitch to the right and broke into the second level before using a stiff-arm at the 5-yard line to get in for the score and a 7-3 lead at the 11:54 mark.
A defensive stand by the Cats’ defense forced a punt and led to an 11-yard touchdown run by Williams to lift the lead to 14-3 with 8:26 remaining in the first half.
Another defensive stand for Mogadore led to a missed 26-yard field-goal attempt, which then became a 32-yard score by Williams and a 21-3 lead for Mogadore at 4:39 — a score that held until halftime.
The Wildcats had won the coin toss and deferred to the second half and took the third quarter’s first possession and marched down he field for another touchdown. This one was a 7-yard run by Lehner and Nick Coffman connected on his fourth extra point to extend Mogadore’s lead to a commanding 28-3 advantage.
“I am really proud of our defense tonight,” said Adorni, whose staff made as quick of a defensive adjustment as you will ever see to shut off the Wolves’ outside running success from their first drive. “Defending a triple-option defense like theirs is tough. They showed us some wrinkles that allowed them to get on the edge early, but we adjusted and our kids were making plays.”
Those plays included relentless and punishing tackles and also five takeaways, which included interceptions from Corey Lehner, Devin Graham and Will Baskey, along with fumble recoveries by Aaron Rumschlag and Kolton Thomas.
After Mogadore led 28-3, the Wolves scored on a 22-yard pass from Francis Conners, filling in for the team’s injured starting quarterback, to Anthony Coutouzis to make the score 28-10 with 4:41 showing on the third-quarter clock.
Constantine scored at the 2:27 mark on a 4-yard run to boost the score back up to 34-10, then Rumschlag scored on a 5-yard run inside of three minutes in the fourth quarter to set the final score at 41-10.
Mogadore is now 6-0 all-time against Cuyahoga Heights.
“We have a lot of respect for their program,” Adorni said. “We knew they were going to be a well-coached team that plays hard.”
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