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Sarasota Wednesday, Sep. 8, 2021 11 months ago

Cardinal Mooney football's offense takes the next step

After averaging 16.5 points per game in 2020, Cardinal Mooney is off to a much faster start in 2021
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Editor

What a difference 12 months — and a full offseason — can make.

Last season, the Cardinal Mooney High football team struggled to score in coach Jared Clark's first season.

The Cougars went 2-7 and averaged 16.5 points a game, including their 52-0 playoff loss to Lakeland Christian. This year, through two games, the Cougars are averaging 35.5 points a game, having beaten Booker High 36-0 and Lakewood Ranch High 35-30.

They're doing it with largely the same group of players, including senior quarterback Tayven Clark, Jared Clark's nephew, who has seen his numbers skyrocket in 2021. Through two games, Tayven Clark has completed 25 of 30 passes for 325 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Clark has also run 20 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns. 

"We're an explosive offense, and we know it," Tayven Clark said.

Clark isn't doing this by himself. He gets to throw the ball to weapons such as senior wide receiver Cooper Flerlage, who changed the outcome of the Lakewood Ranch game with a 38-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Flerlage took a routine screen pass to the right side of the field and weaved his way to the left sideline, where he turned up the field before any Mustangs could catch him.

Freshman wide receiver Ryan Matulevich has also impressed coaches this offseason and leads the team with eight catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. 

Cardinal Mooney sophomore running back Carson Beach (22) runs away from the dive of Lakewood Ranch senior Sam McCracken.

When the Cougars get tired of throwing, they hand the ball to sophomore Carson Beach, who has 25 carries for 132 yards and three touchdowns. Basically, whatever Mooney wants to do on offense, it has done successfully. Against Lakewood Ranch, the Cougars did it without Jared Clark, who was absent from the sidelines for health reasons.

It didn't matter; the Cougars are confident they can score on anyone at any time. With a full offseason in place, the Cougars had a chance to install more of their offense and get more comfortable within it.

"We have been repetitious in practice," Tayven Clark said. "We've been consistent in our work. We get after it. We make sure that we perfect everything we do. That's helped us so far. 

"We're going to do our thing. It doesn't matter who we're going to get (on the field). We're going to run our offense and we're going to do it well." 

That offense has included lots of plays from pistol formations, a look similar to the shotgun except the quarterback, Clark, stands closer to the center, allowing offensive weapons to stand either behind him or to the side of him, or both. The look gives Mooney plenty of options, which seemed to throw off the Mustangs defense last week, especially on running plays. The Cougars gashed Lakewood Ranch for 273 rushing yards, a feat that also acts as a hat tip to the team's offensive line, which kept Cougars skill position players clean behind the line of scrimmage. 

The Cougars will attempt to keep their offense rolling against North Port High (1-1) at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at North Port. The Bobcats lost 56-0 to Sarasota High last week. The schedule gets more difficult after that, with games against First Baptist Academy (2-0) and Carrollwood Day (2-0) on the horizon. But the Cougars believe they will be up to the task. 

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I’m the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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