Mahoning Valley has plenty of football tradition

Tradition. According to wikipedia, “Tradition” is the opening number for the Broadway musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” In the song, the main character, Tevye, explains the roles of each family member (fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters) in the village of Anatevka, and how the traditional roles of people like the matchmaker and the rabbi contribute to the village. The song also sets the major theme of the show: the villagers trying to continue their traditions and keep their society running as the world around them changes.

The spectrum of high school football around the Mahoning Valley changes constantly, but the more successful teams in this area hold on to one simple facet – tradition.

Start with Cardinal Mooney’s football team – the lone area team heading to a state championship. The Cardinals, which have been in existence since the mid 1950s, have won eight state championships.

Friday, when the Cardinals face defending Division IV state champion Clinton-Massie at 3 p.m. at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon, for this year’s Division IV state title, the Cardinal Mooney team will remember its tradition as it prepares for a possible ninth state championship.

St. Ignatius has 11 state championships – most in Ohio history. The Wildcats, under legendary coach Chuck Kyle, have a tradition unlike any other.

As for the Cardinals, their traditions are sacred, but only carry their team so far.

“I think tradition means a lot to the kids in the locker room and means a lot to how they approach things. It’s not going to effect the play of the field,” Cardinal Mooney coach P.J. Fecko said prior to Saturday’s Division IV semifinal against Steubenville, where the Cardinals beat Big Red, 37-7. “Those guys are going to have to sink or swim on their own. Nobody is going to come out of the sky to help them or out of the stands to help them. The way things are approached, obviously, positive encouragement from former alum and that overall feeling of pride of where the bar has been set. You’re striving as a competitor to reach that bar. In our case, we try to raise that bar a little bit higher.”

It’s not just Cardinal Mooney. Ask Andy Hake, who is worth the price of admission for his excitability on the sidelines and the passion he exudes, and his Western Reserve Blue Devils.

Western Reserve advanced to its second state semifinal in three years. This time, the Blue Devils ran into a defense buzz-saw named Glouster Trimble, who won’t be easily disposed of by a traditional powerhouse Maria Stein Marion Local in Saturday’s Division VII state final. This past Saturday, Western Reserve lost to Trimble, 14-10, at St. Clairsville.

Western Reserve is the best small school in this area. Hake has instilled a tradition of winning in this program – a tradition that won’t fade away any time soon.

They don’t rebuild in Berlin Center. They simply reload.

After the recent two-year stretch by Brookfield, most prognosticators thought the Warriors would fade into obscurity in 2013 as the 2012 senior-laden team graduated.

Coach Randy Clark and his Brookfield team wanted to prove the skeptics wrong. That’s exactly what the Warriors did as they made the postseason for the third straight season with a sophomore quarterback and a team led by plenty of underclassmen.

Even though St. Thomas Aquinas beat Brookfield in the first round of the playoffs, don’t count out the 2014 Warriors for heading back to the postseason.

Then, there is Hubbard. Coach Brian Hoffman, a 1989 Hubbard graduate, took over the program in 2007 and has led the Eagles to the playoffs every year aside from 2011. That year, Hubbard was 7-3.

There’s a tradition of winning with the Eagles. It should continue since the top running back in the area, L.J. Scott, who is a senior in 2014. The four-star recruit has, according to ESPN, offers from by Bowling Green, Kentucky, Michigan State, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Then, there is Poland. Mark Brungard, who quarterbacked Youngstown State to two of its Division I-AA National Titles in the 1990s, has now led Poland to the playoffs seven straight seasons.

Poland, which won the Division III state title in 1999 going 15-0 under then coach Paul Hulea, is a traditional power.

From Cardinal Mooney to Poland, there is plenty of tradition in the Mahoning Valley.