Mogadore football finding itself right at home this season
MOGADORE In a season full of oddities, one of the weirdest for any local high school football teams belongs to the Mogadore Wildcats.
Eight weeks and six games into their campaign, they've yet to play a single road or neutral site game. Scheduling quirks, combined with weather and COVID-related issues, have led to six home games – soon to be seven – in a row to kick off the year.
"It's definitely affected us ... anyone who coaches will tell you just the no rhythm and no sense of normalcy has made it hard," veteran Mogadore head coach Matt Adorni said. "Just the flow has been off."
The unusual season took its first twist in Week 1. A scheduled road game against University School was pushed from Friday night to Saturday afternoon due to weather, as well as moving it to Wildcat Stadium.
The next fork in the road came when a Week 3 road game against St. Thomas Aquinas was canceled following a positive COVID-19 test at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Three straight home games followed in a Portage Trail Conference season that brought some sense of normalcy despite the PTC being in a state of flux.
"That did make it feel normal to have three league games in a row, boom, boom, boom," Adorni said. "It hasn't been normal playing every game at home ... I think we fell into a little bit of a malaise where every game we'd come out of locker room and it get the same. We maybe needed it to feel a little different."
The start of the playoffs helped create that different feel, Adorni noted. Playing on Saturday night instead of Friday was a change. Plus, Adorni said facing a Columbia team the veteran coach believes was seeded too low provided a good challenge following a bye in the first round of the Division VI, Region 21 bracket.
"The bye week helped us heal because we were really banged up after those three league games," Adorni said. "Our kids attacked bye week well and it felt like we were able to flip the switch like we talked about needing to do."
To be sure, the PTC schedule was a hard-hitting stretch. After the league saw its eight-member Metro Division disband and reform independently as the Metro Athletic Conference and PTC County member Crestwood exit the league, the County Division was left with just five members, although Lake Center Christian does not have a football team.
That left Mogadore, Southeast, Garrettsville Garfield and Rootstown to play one another in Weeks 4, 5 and 6. A 28-21 overtime loss to Garrettsville stands as Mogadore's lone loss of the season, along with arguably its most physical contest of the fall.
Getting healthy during the bye specifically benefited the Mogadore rushing attack, which features multiple two-way players who are indispensable on both sides of the ball.
Nick Skye and Tyler Knight, along with Zach Shannon, have paced the running game and as the weather worsens late in the season, they figure to see their role increase.
Next up is Pymatuning Valley, a 7-0 team coming off its first playoff win.
"We're not like some teams who had walk in the park in the first playoff game and now we're to the round of playoffs where they would normally start," Adorni said, alluding to the regional quarterfinals of this week being the first week of the postseason in a normal year."
Win or lose, this week could be the last home game of the season for Mogadore. Top-seeded New Middletown Springfield hosts Aquinas in a matchup whose winner will face the winner of Mogadore-Pymatuning Valley, meaning that if Springfield wins, Mogadore would be on the road for a potential regional semifinal.
For now, the Wildcats are enjoying their home FieldTurf playing surface for games and practices.
The artificial grass has come in handy the past two seasons, especially this week, when heavy rains have turned local grass fields to muddy messes. Come Saturday night, that artificial home grass will be the site of a very real seventh home game in a row for a Mogadore team seeking the fifth state title in program history.