The Cardinal Mooney High football team’s 2018 season was a roller coaster with a long climb and a sharp drop. It looked like the season, the first under two-time state championship coach Paul Maechtle, was headed for something special before quarterback Ryan Bolduc suffered a leg injury. He missed the final six games, and though Mooney won the first three of those, injuries to other quarterbacks cut into the team’s depth. The Cougars ended their season in round one of the playoffs with a 34-31 loss to Calvary Christian.
Bolduc is back in 2019, as is Maechtle. If the Cougars starters stay healthy, this could be the season the promises of 2018 are fulfilled.
“We have an experienced group of offensive players,” Maechtle said. “We have three starters back on the offensive line. Our quarterback started. We have three receivers that started. So seven starters out of 11 are back. That is a nice luxury to have. Now the question is, will they play another year better than they did last year? That’s the secret. I know they are bigger. I know they are stronger. Now they have to play to that level.”
Bolduc, for his part, said he feels fully healed from the injury. His play backs up that assertion. Cramped into a practice space typically meant for one unit at a time thanks to ongoing renovations to their field, Cougars players narrowly avoided each other during drills Aug. 13. Bolduc showed accuracy on drop-back passes and rollouts to his left despite the lack of space to maneuver. The 6-foot-1 Bolduc threw for more than 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018 prior to his injury.
The Cougars' offense is more than just its quarterback. Bolduc said he is excited for everyone to see what the team’s skill position players can do. That includes seniors wide receiver Meko Mayes and Max Henderson and junior wideouts Ty Nevels and Cameron Heald. Nevels had 13 catches in Mooney’s spring game against Sarasota High.
Last year’s starter at running back, Tray Hall, transferred to Riverview High, but the Cougars add Braden River High transfer Dylan Turner, a junior, and freshman Lauriel “Scoota” Trotman. Both have the confidence of their quarterback.
Things on defense are less settled. Maechtle said his focus is on getting the linebacker corps up to par. There are lots of options, he said, but he is waiting for someone to make an impact. Whoever ends up playing there will have an important job, along with the defensive line, of getting backfield pressure and letting the Cougars’ talented secondary make plays on the ball.
The school’s stadium renovations, which include a turf field and new light fixtures, won’t be completed by Sept. 9 as originally thought. That means Mooney’s game scheduled that week, against Berkley Prep, will now be a road game. The first home game is now scheduled for Sept. 20 against Victory Christian Academy. Starting with four straight road games will be a challenge for Mooney, but finishing that stretch with a winning record would set the Cougars up for a strong second half. They finish with four of their final six games at home.
If the Cougars’ starters can stay upright, they may be able to reverse the roller coaster flow of 2018 and pick up a postseason win — or more.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.