- August 1, 2019
In a highly anticipated contest that filled Cardinal Mooney High's stadium — and parking lot — with fans, the Cougars opened their season in a game against crosstown rival Booker High, which was playing its first game under Coach Scottie Littles.
It was a tight game throughout, if not the offensive showcase that some fans might have expected after both teams scored more than 50 points in their respective preseason contests last week. In fact, neither team scored an offensive touchdown Friday night. But Mooney jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, thanks to defensive and special teams plays, and held on to beat the Tornadoes 10-9.
Mooney's defense seized the first opportunity it got to make an impact play. With Booker backed deep in its own zone, the Tornadoes had a low snap that sent quarterback Will Carter Jr. into his own end zone to retrieve the ball. By the time he did, the Cougars defense was on top of him, tackling him for a safety. On the ensuing kickoff, Mooney junior Griffin Gisotti scampered down the left side of the field untouched for a score. An encroachment penalty on the extra-point attempt put Mooney in position to go for two instead, and junior running back Carson Beach converted, making the score 10-0.
Mooney would not score again. The Cougars offense struggled to get chunk plays in the running game, and junior quarterback Johnny Antonucci was intercepted twice by Booker defenders, once for a pick six. The Cougars defense made up for the team's offensive challenges, keeping Booker's offense out of the end zone. The Tornadoes got within striking distance multiple times, but Mooney always managed to make a play, like when it stopped Carter Jr. at the three yard line on a fourth and goal scramble in the fourth quarter.
The Mooney special teams unit also continued to come up large, making perhaps the biggest play of the game when it blocked a 37-yard Booker field goal attempt that, if converted, would have given the Tornadoes a 12-10 lead with just over two minutes remaining. Earlier, the unit stopped Booker on an extra-point attempt that would have tied the game.