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Mooseheart Claims Tough 34-24 Victory Over Warren in Class 1A Playoff Opener

By DARRYL MELLEMA, Associate Editor, Moose Magazine
Click Photo to Enlarge

This profile by sportswriter Rick Armstrong on the Ramblers' versatile Sahr Mahoney ran in both the Chicago Sun-Times and the local Aurora (IL) Beacon-News, during the days immediately leading up to Mooseheart's first-round playoff game on Oct. 27.

Mooseheart's Sahr Mahoney (No. 32) shakes off attention from Warren defender Austin Williams on his way to scoring a touchdown in the second quarter of the Ramblers' 34-24 victory in the IHSA Class 1A playoffs

Despite attention from Warren lineman Brad Bartell, Mooseheart quarterback Jon Hart releases one of 33 passing attempts in the Ramblers 34-24 win over the Warriors. Hart completed 25 passes for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns

Mooseheart running back Oumaru Abdulahi slips away from an attempted tackle by Warren's Brice Cox. Abdulahi gained 52 yards on 14 carries for the Ramblers.

Warren's Devin Cox (No. 23) attempts to bring down Mooseheart receiver J.J. Odunsi in Saturday's IHSA Class 1A playoff game. Odunsi caught 13 passes for 147 yards in the contest.


MOOSEHEART, IL Oct. 27 - Nobody associated with Mooseheart's football team thought defeating Warren was going to be easy. The Warriors may have finished the regular season 5-4, but that record came against some of the toughest competition in the state.

And for four quarters, the Ramblers and Warriors went end-to-end at Mooseheart's stadium in a manner usually reserved for Arena Football. The contest contained more than enough offense, 8 turnovers and more key plays than can be numbered.

But when the game ended, Mooseheart claimed a 34-24 victory, its second opening round win in the IHSA Class 1A playoffs in as many years. The Ramblers advance to face Stark County in a second-round contest on Nov. 3 at 4 p.m.

"We did what to do and we got the win," Mooseheart coach Gary Urwiler said. "It didn't look pretty, that's for sure."

Offensively, there were some huge performances for Mooseheart. Quarterback Jon Hart completed 25-of-33 pass for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns. Each of those touchdown passes was caught by Sahr Mahoney, who grabbed 8 passes overall for 125 yards. J.J. Odunsi caught 13 passes for 147 yards.

"Running the ball was just tough," Urwiler said. "I don't know why, but it is what it is and we were still able to throw the ball and get some underneath stuff. Overall, it was a win."

And the Ramblers got interceptions in the contest by three different players: Odunsi, Chris Villaruel and Peter Mator to go with a fumble recovery by Mahoney.

But then there were other moments, including a 100-yard interception return by Devin Pax, a 166-yard rushing effort by Warren's Brady Raab and 285 total yards in the contest amassed by the Warriors and four turnovers committed in the game by the Ramblers.

"It was strangely uncharacteristic of us to put the ball on the ground so many times," Hart said. "We've got to work on that this week and fix it."

Mooseheart went 25 years between playoff victories before its opening-round win in 2011. One of the things the Ramblers have learned is that doing whatever it takes to get a win is the key in postseason football - and they showed that perseverance throughout Saturday's game.

"It's very nice to have back-to-back playoff wins, but our goals are bigger than this," Hart said. "We've got to keep working and stay focused for next Saturday and we've got to play hard next weekend."

For example, after Warren marched smoothly to score on its opening possession, Mooseheart responded on the very next play, a 52-yard pass from Hart to Mahoney.

When Pax returned his interception for a touchdown 0-0 only 1:04 remained in the first half. The Ramblers took the kickoff and scored in 6 plays when Mahoney caught his second TD pass from Hart.

And when Warren converted after Mooseheart fumbled 19 yards from its own end zone to take a 24-20 lead midway through the third quarter, the Ramblers again responded immediately.

First Mahoney caught a 35-yard pass from Hart and on the team's next possession, Mahoney caught a 9-yard pass from Hart.

With the 10-point lead, the Ramblers defense played shutout football through the fourth quarter.

Odunsi's largest receiving day of the season was made largely from possession catches, though he got free for catches of 33 and 47 yards in the first half and added an 18-yard catch-and-run in the second half.

"(Odunsi) played well," Urwiler said. "He's an added element to our offense."

Mahoney has drawn much defensive attention, and so has 1,000-yard rusher Oumaru Abdulahi. That left Odunsi free at times, and he took full advantage.

"I give all the credit to (Urwiler) because he's giving me great routes to run." Odunsi said. "I just have to run those routes and catch the ball."

Hart's strong passing day took him to nearly 1,200 yards passing for the season. He has thrown 15 TDs and had 6 passes intercepted.

"It's a lot of fun to throw the ball," Hart said. "They kept giving us one-on-one matchups. They made some adjustments toward (Odunsi) but, on (Mahoney), they couldn't adjust and that was a big difference in the game."

Saturday was Founders Day at Mooseheart, the day the campus celebrates the birthday of James J. Davis, the man whose vision of a Child City was realized with Mooseheart's founding in 1913. Founders Day has for many years been the day on which Moose members from Ohio and Michigan gather on-campus to support the children their fraternal membership and giving support.

"It's always a great opportunity when our members are here to see the Ramblers play," Urwiler said. "I hope that they're leaving pretty charged up and feeling good about all the programs we had on-campus today. We always want to thank them for all that they do for us."

Those Moose members were joined in the stands by a huge contingent of traveling Warren fans for a special Class 1A atmosphere.

"It's great to be part of this," Odunsi said. "We have friends and fans behind us. It's not just for us. This is for them too."

Warren             6    12   6     0    -    24
Mooseheart      7   13   14   0    -     34

Scoring plays

W-Leverton 2 run (kick failed)
M-Mahoney 52 pass from Hart (Mahoney kick)
M-Mahoney 9 run (Mahoney kick)
W-Raab 41 run (run failed)
W-Pax 100 interception return (run failed)
M-Mahoney 5 pass from Hart (kick failed)
W-Cherry 1 run (kick failed)
M-Mahoney 35 pass from Hart (Mahoney kick)
M-Mahoney 9 pass from Hart (Mahoney kick)

                                   W                    M

First Downs                 18                    13               

Rushes-yards              47-195             24-85  

Passes                        14-23-3            25-33-1

Passing yards             90                    294

Total yards                  285                  379     

Fumbles-lost               1-1                  6-3

Punts-avg.                  3-26.3              2-29

Penalties                     7-50                 3-20


Individual statistics

Warren: Leverton 9-7, Raab 32-166, Cherry 4-9. Cox 1-11, Pax 1-2.
Mooseheart: Hart 3-(-4), Abdulahi 14-52, Mahoney 5-12, Odunsi 2-25.

Warren: Leverton 14-23-3 90.
Mooseheart: Hart: 25-33-1 294.

Warren: Raab 3-13, Williams 1-4, Upmann 4-30, Cox 4-27, Pax 2-16. Mooseheart: Mator 1-6, Odunsi 13-147, Abdulahi 1-8, Mahoney 8-125, Villaruel 2-8.

Warren: Cox 3-79. Mooseheart: Mahoney 2-58.

Warren: Pax 1. Mooseheart: Odunsi 1, Villaruel 1, Mator 1.



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