Wow did it feel good to be home again for some Friday Night lights action. Being reunited with old high school friends really makes the atmosphere of being at the stadium better. It was a good night to start, but I left the game with a sour taste in my mouth.
Strongsville is very good at creating athletes and competing with any school in the state. Lately, however, they've been on the short end of the rope. Looking to improve off of last years disappointing 3-7 record, they wanted to get out to a good start this season. But they have lost each of their last 6 (going back to last season) in close games decided by ten points or less, and this game was close up until about half way through the third quarter.
"Coach was preaching to us to fight back at half time. Everyone on our team always gives a superb effort, but we made one or two mental lapses that really cost us," said senior linebacker Gus Gluek. "Their defensive schemes were difficult for us to adjust to on the fly, and that is where mistakes usually happen. But we were able to adapt eventually."
Sooner would have been better, but the same intensity and enthusiasm will be carried by this team into next week's collision vs. Padua. If there is one team in the Valley Division that can recover from a slow start, it's definitely Strongsville. They play a 48 minute game, with hard contact.
The Mentor Cardinals enjoyed a solid performance from quarterback Colton Wallace. He hit his favorite target, senior wide out Marcus Cade on a comeback route to the right sideline on a number of occasions. The things he can do after a catch that Marcus displayed were impressive also.
What was more impressive was Wallace's ability to scramble and make a play with his legs. Yes, most high school quarterbacks are more of a threat on the ground rather then in the air, but this kid showed terrific athleticism and even better acceleration. He could go from zero to 60 in three steps, and a mobile gun slinger adds a whole other dimension to an already flourishing offense. They've outscored their opponents 66-52 in the early goings.
The Mentor Cardinals proved to be a challenge for the Mustangs. The interior defensive line of Mentor was what really gave Strongsville problems; making changes at the last second before the snap. Switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 just before the snap really mixes things up a bit. Realizing this, head coach Russ Jacques created plays for senior tailback Matt Bianco to flourish on the outsides, but the high flying Cardinals plugged those gaps as well.
Mike Korecz was the work horse of the Cardinal ground game, totaling up 171 yards on 29 carries. Two of his three rushing touchdowns game early in the third quarter. He also added a passing touchdown thrown to Marcus Cade from one yard away.
No matter what the score was throughout the evening, the Mustangs battled; hard.
They have the necessary tools to triumph; a leaner, faster Matt Bianco at tailback, and a very fluid tight end in Iowa recruit Ray Hamilton. Ray finished the night catching 11 passes for 146 yards with a score.
But it will take a team effort for Strongsville to get that first win out of the way. They do have depth, but so far, they've got little to show for it.