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'Underdog' Mogadore ready to face tough challenge

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

MOGADORE   For most local high school football fans, it's tough to imagine the Mogadore Wildcats as an underdog.

Given the way the Wildcats (6-1) have dominated in recent years – 22 straight playoff berths despite changing divisions twice and scores of league and regional championships to their credit – the guys in green and white seem to find themselves cast as the favorites in most games.

That changes this week, when they take on the latest Division VI juggernaut to rise in Region 21, New Middletown Springfield.

The Tigers are undefeated, ranked fourth in the state and have steamrolled opponents by a combined margin of 356-67 this season en route to an 8-0 record. Their smallest margin of victory was 28 points in a 35-7 playoff win over Berlin Western Reserve.

"It's weird when we're the underdog but in this case people have us as the underdog ... the computer projections even have us as double digit underdogs," Mogadore head coach Matt Adorni said. "We embracing it this week."

Springfield is similar to another recent Region 21 power, Kirtland, in that they've dominated opponents to the point that games are often a rout before halftime. Kirtland has since moved up to Division V and remains dominant there, but with another potent foe in front of them, Mogadore's playoff path is just as difficult.

"They're efficient on both sides of the ball. It starts with their quarterback, Beau Brungard, and you can tell he's a great leader and has great command of their offense," Adorni said. "They're balanced and they can run ball from under center, they can go in the shotgun, they can run play action and they can also go wide."

It's a Springfield attack Mogadore got a good look at in the playoffs last season, when the Wildcats took an early lead but fell 35-21 to the eventual state runners-up.

That game taught Mogadore a lot about the Tigers, even if a few of the skill players that hurt them last season have graduated.

"Last year, we had game where we wanted, and we let them punch in a big score right before halftime," Adorni said. "We had a game plan for them and I know they surprised us with their ability to run the ball with number 21 (Brungard)."

Complicating the picture even further is Springfield's special teams unit, headed by All-Ohio kicking candidate Clayton Medvec. As Adorni noted, Medvec regularly puts the ball in the end zone on kickoffs, negating opponents' return games and for into them to drive 80 yards to score.

For a Mogadore team that had two 100-year rushers in last week's win over Pymatuning Valley, being able to grind out yards on the ground figures to play prominently into the outcome this week.

Tyler Knight's 135-yard, three-touchdown outing and Nick Skye's 133-yard effort showed what the Wildcats can do when healthy and clicking on offense.

Quarterback Will Butler figures to lean heavily on the running game in a contest where rain and chilly temperatures could combine with a grass field to produce a messy, physical contest without a ton of passing success.

Regardless of the style of play, Adorni knows his team has to be on point from the outset.

"We want to start strong and hopefully rattle them a bit they've been able to be in cruise control by the second quarter in a lot of their games," the 17th-year head coach said. "They're so good they've been overwhelm teams, so the start of game incredibly important. We have to hang around and we can't let them jump out to a big lead."

In what will be their first road game and first game on grass after seven straight home games, the Wildcats could be ready for a change of pace. Whether they can match the pace of a Springfield team that has boat-raced every opponent so far this season is the question that will determine whether Mogadore keeps its season alive.