Strong, veteran line could keep Mohawk in playoff picture

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Saturday, August 20, 2022 | 12:01 PM


After a successful season that included a third-place finish in the Midwestern Athletic Conference and a first-round WPIAL playoff victory, Mohawk comes into this year with a strong, veteran line and some inexperience at the skill positions.

Coach Tim McCutcheon isn’t complaining.

No, really. He isn’t. Like, at all.

He’d much rather have it this way than the opposite.

“When you don’t have a line, you can’t fake it,” McCutcheon said. “I’ve tried to do it. You can’t scheme your way out of it. There’s no mastermind coaching recipe for that.”

That rings true in the MAC, where smashmouth football still reigns. It also rings true in the NFL, as those who have watched a certain local pro team play for the last two seasons could attest.

“Once the other team realizes you’re faking it, you’re in trouble,” McCutcheon said.

Mohawk’s line looks to be as authentic as they come this season, with four starters back, including a pair of seniors in 6-foot-3, 320-pound Coleton Root and 6-3, 265-pound center Michael Dominick. Add a pair of physical tight ends in Jimmy Guerrieri and Luke Kuhn and the Warriors should be primed for the MAC battles in the trenches.

The biggest area of transition will come under center, where Mohawk will have to replace John Voss, who had a rare combination of passing acumen and physicality in the ground game.

Junior Jay Wrona, a basketball and baseball standout, is the likely candidate to fill the role.

“He’s a good three-sport athlete. Smart kid,” McCutcheon said. “This will be his first year on Friday nights under the lights, but lights don’t seem to bother him in any sport.”

Other returning skill players with some Friday night experience for the Warriors are senior Junior Micco and junior Justin Boston at running back and senior Dante Retort at wide receiver.

And when it comes to weapons, don’t forget the kicker. Junior Josh Wilkins could be among the WPIAL’s best.

“He could hit ‘em from outside of 40 last year no problem, and this year, with the added weight room behind him, he’s launching them pretty good,” McCutcheon said. “At the high school level, that’s a big tool. We’re counting on him. It shrinks the field on offense and we’re hoping to pin some people deep on defense.”

After going a combined 3-14 the previous two seasons, Mohawk bounced back with a 6-6 record, 4-3 in the MAC, and rolled past Chartiers-Houston, 34-12, in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Sto-Rox.

McCutcheon has an interesting theory about why the Warriors struggled for a couple of years before turning it around last fall.

The pandemic, he said, disrupted daily routines for student-athletes in a dramatic way. The weight room was closed for a time. Sleep schedules were thrown off. Depending on a student’s home life, diet might be less than ideal. Remote learning presented a variety of challenges.

“I think that’s important for teenagers to have a consistent pattern and a system of accountability,” McCutcheon said.

Pandemic-related changes affected every team in the country, of course, not just Mohawk. But the way McCutcheon sees it, certain types of teams were impacted more than others.

“We’re never going to overwhelm you with athleticism, so we have to win the offseasons,” he said. “It has to be culture-based. We have to be hyper-aggressive. Those covid years where we had to close the weight room early, that didn’t do us any good. We have to win the offseason. That’s where it starts for us.”

With that, McCutcheon paused.

He didn’t want to give the impression that he was boasting about how he had everything all figured out.

“If I knew the real answer,” he said with a laugh, “we wouldn’t have two off years in the first place.”

Mohawk

Coach: Tim McCutcheon

2021 record: 6-6, 4-3 in Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference

All-time record: 363-476-40

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 Union, 7

9.2 Quaker Valley, 7

9.9 at Laurel, 7

9.16 Riverside*, 7

9.23 at New Brighton*, 7

9.30 Ellwood City*, 7

10.7 at Beaver Falls*, 7

10.14 Freedom*, 7

10.22 at Western Beaver*, 12:30

10.28 Neshannock*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: John Voss*

114-256, 1,447 yards, 15 TDs, 7 INTs

Rushing: A.J. Carnuche*

117-409, 3TDs

Receiving: Marc Conti*

32-686, 7 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Mohawk’s playoff win over Chartiers-Houston was the third in program history. Before that, the most recent postseason victory was a 48-0 shutout of Seton LaSalle in the first round in 2018.

• Returning seniors running back Junior Micco and tight end Jimmy Guerrieri scored touchdowns in the playoff win over Chartiers-Houston.

• WR/DB Marc Conti was an all-conference pick on both sides of the ball for Mohawk last season. He’s playing his college ball at Washington & Jefferson.

• Mohawk and Neshannock tied for third place in the MAC with 4-3 records last season. Mohawk won the head-to-head meeting 15-7 in Week 3.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at jbombulie@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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