The Press Newspaper
If you were to look at their 1-4 record, you might think the Cardinal Stritch Catholic football team was in the midst of a disappointing season.
A closer look reveals that the Cardinals are doing good things as Coach Jim Kubuske aims to rebuild a program that last qualified for the postseason in 2006.
After defeating Woodward, 26-14, in the season opener, Stritch has dropped four consecutive games, falling to Woodmore (55-13), Lakota (12-7), Danbury (26-18) and Toledo Christian (41-13).
But it's not as bad as it looks. While two of those losses have come in convincing fashion, if a few things had gone differently against Lakota and Danbury, the Cardinals could very well be 3-2.
Against the Raiders, the Cardinals led 7-0 before falling and, against the Lakers, Stritch had two touchdowns called back because of penalties. That included one in the fourth quarter that would have cut the deficit to 26-24 with a two-point conversion attempt coming.
And despite falling to the Eagles by 28 points, Stritch held a 13-10 lead midway through the second quarter before TC took a 20-13 into the half and later pulled away.
Kubuske believes the Cardinals, despite being 0-2 record in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, have made strides.
“We're a young team,” said Kubuske. “The majority of our players are freshmen and sophomores and they're giving us 100 percent. We have a good group of senior leaders that are holding us together and keeping us on task. We're expecting to get better each week.”
One of those seniors is running back Zach Denomy, an All Miller Jewelers All-Press second team selection in 2011. Denomy has rushed for 502 yards and is looking to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark this season and help strengthen the program for the future.
Kubuske says he is excited, knowing that many of his underclassmen are getting valuable experience by seeing varsity action this season. He notes that roughly eight freshmen are in line to earn a varsity letter. Kubuske credits a number of key players like Tanner Langlois (TE/LB), Ricky Pratt (OL/LB) and Walt Darrs (RB/DL), who are giving their all.
“We have some young kids that are contributing,” Kubuske said.
Ottawa Hills, meanwhile, stands at 3-2 and is coming off a three-game winning streak after starting the season 0-2. The Green Bears, which went 7-4 last season and advanced to the postseason, are looking to compete for a league title and have gotten off to a 2-0 start in the TAAC. Following their 14-7 loss in week two to Ayersville, Ottawa Hills has outscored its opponents by a combined 128-28, which includes a 42-7 win over Hilltop last week.
The Bears, behind a spread offense, like to pass the ball but will mix in the run as well. Quarterback Jonathan Rodriguez has been on a tear lately, completing 21-of-32 passes for 395 yards and six touchdowns. He's gotten help running back Judah Wollenburg and wide receivers Lucas Janowicz, Will Longthorne and Jack Wollenburg.
In Ottawa Hills' 42-7 win over Hilltop in week five, Judah Wollenburg had eight carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns, Longthorne caught three passes for 114 yards and three scores as the Bears rolled up 412 yards of offense.
“They bounced back from a big loss to Genoa (58-7) early,” Kubuske said. “They're veteran leadership has taken over and they have a lot of seniors. They've settled in and won three in a row. And according to what you put in the box (on defense), they'll adjust.”
The Bears have won four of the last five meetings, though two of those victories came by a combined four points.