Last season was unique for Cardinal Mooney.
On one hand, it were proud of what it accomplished in its first 11-man football season in four years. The Cardinals took home the Independent Football League title by going 3-0 in conference play and missed playoffs by two games, going 4-5 overall.
Then again, that’s what left a sour taste in their mouths. Sure, they had a solid season in their first season back in 11-man, but missing out on a chance for playoffs has these Cardinals ready to rumble this year.
“I feel like we disappointed ourselves,” senior lineman Josh Grifka said. “We want to get to playoffs, and we didn’t.”
Grifka will be one of the top dogs that play to Mooney’s biggest strength heading into the season — depth in the trenches. Barring injuries, the Cardinals will have plenty of fresh legs on the offensive and defensive line which, usually, doesn’t happen with small teams.
“It’s usually the other way around where you have a lot of skill but no lineman,” coach Jared Greenia said. “We’re going to see, because this is my first time with this and I think it will work out great for us … fresh legs in the trenches will be big for us.”
The quality linemen will also be crucial as new quarterback Jeff Mullally is stepping in to take over for 2014 Team MVP Tyler Mrock. The Cardinals will also have to fill a big hole at defensive end as they also lost IFL Defensive MVP Franklin Mackenzie to graduation.
While he isn’t a player, new defensive coordinator Paul Skowronski joins the program to help bolster the new 5-2 defense. He brings 30 years of coaching experience with him from Divine Child, Bishop Gallagher and Harper Woods Notre Dame, where he coached Greenia.
“He brings a lot to the table and he has a lot of knowledge,” Greenia said. “The kids are really buying into his program and I think we are going to see a really big difference on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Cardinals also have a favorable schedule this season that could help them make a run at their first 11-man playoff bid since 2008. The eight teams scheduled for this season are coming off a combined 21-49 record, and Clarkston Everest Collegiate is the only team removed from a winning season in 2014.
That Everest game will also split their conference schedule as they play Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy in week four, Mayville in week five and Star International Academy in week seven.
And while the last two games they played were ten months ago, the Cardinals are still riding the wave of momentum that has given them motivation heading into this year.
Their week eight game last year was a 21-6 win over Star to clinch the IFL title. The red and black followed up that game with a back-and-forth 41-36 win over Madison Heights Bishop Foley – their first win against them in six matchups.
“(It taught us) not to give up,” said junior running back Wyatt Greenia, who added 60 pounds in the offseason. “The games are going to be tough and you might lose a couple, but you got to keep your head up.”
Mooney’s mission this year is to make sure other programs keep their heads up and pay attention to what the Cardinals are producing on the field. After a few rough seasons Jared Greenia is tired of people seeing Mooney as just another team, and he feels like they’re ready to get back to the winning ways they had in the early 2000s.
“Cardinal Mooney has come as punchline for a couple of teams in the past, but I think things are changing,” Jared Greenia said. “People are starting to buy into the program.”
Contact Matt Sheehan at (810)-989-6267 or email@example.com. He’s on Twitter @Sheehan_Sports.
CARDINAL MOONEY CARDINALS
COACH: Jared Greenia (Third season, 6-12)
2014 RECORD: 4-5
OFFENSE: Single back
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2012 (Lost in 8-man pre-regional)
RETURNING STARTERS: Josh Grifka, Christian Mattich, Jeff Mullally, Jacob Roman, Wyatt Greenia
KEY LOSSES: Franklin Mackenzie, Tyler Mrock
KEY NEWCOMERS: Troy Webster, Owen Sheldon, Josh Leslie, Jerry Dickenson
- 2015 SCHEDULE
Aug. 28: At Detroit University Prep Science & Math
Sept. 3: At Detroit Edison Public School Academy
Sept. 12: Vs. Detroit Westside Christian
Sept. 19: Vs. Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy
Sept. 25: At Mayville
Oct. 3: Vs. Clarkston Everest Collegiate
Oct. 9: At Dearborn Heights Star International
Oct. 17: IFL Championship TBD
Oct. 23: At Madison Heights Bishop Foley
BOLD: Denotes league game
- 2014 RESULTS
Lost to Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, 0-26
Def. Mayville, 8-3
Lost to Detroit Edison Academy, 27-36
Def. Detroit University Prep Science & Math, 30-7
Lost to Muskegon Heights Academy, 0-37
Lost to Galesburg-Augusta, 14-41
Lost to Clarkston Everest Collegiate, 12-47
Def. Star International Academy, 21-6
Def. Madison Heights Bishop Foley, 41-36