Mogadore is a town of about 4,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
It’s a village crammed between a couple of bigger populations. It has a few neighborhoods, local businesses, a school and a football stadium. Mogadore is its own little nook nestled within a bigger area, and it happens to be home to a football powerhouse.
As ninth-year coach Matt Adorni knows, Mogadore football isn’t solely a program. It’s something to be lived and breathed. The community and alumni don’t simply support the program, sometimes called “Little Massillon,” they are the program. Walk through Mogadore, and you are immersed in Wildcat Country.
Adorni has lived sandwiched between players. He’s lived across from players. He can see defensive coordinator Tom Pollock’s house from his porch. A couple of cheerleaders live down the street, and a few players in Mogadore’s youth football program live next door.
“You’re talking about a place synonymous with its football,” Adorni said. “It’s a place that’s had its ups and downs as a community, economic upturns and downturns, and the one thing that’s stayed consistent and that people can count on is football. I can walk into a drug store in May and someone will ask about the team. It’s a 24/7 thing here.”
Adorni has lived it his whole life. His dad was a team captain in the late ‘60s, his brother a team captain in the 80s. He graduated in 1992, coached under then-coach Scott Pollock for a while and took over as coach in 2004.
Being asked about a fall sport in a drug store in May is evidence of the passion that surrounds football in Mogadore. Adorni says you can’t really turn it off. And during the season, everybody knows how you did on Friday night.
“It’s great because people care, but it comes with responsibility because you aren’t just letting your team down, you’re letting a community down,” Adorni said. “When the times are good, they’re really good. When the times are struggling, you’re going to hear about it.”
Senior offensive lineman and team captain Joey Callihan said football was a big part of growing up in Mogadore
“It’s a real strong emphasis on football,” he said. “Everybody always goes to the games.”
The evidence is everywhere. Signs with senior players’ pictures on them line the streets. Curtis Street, the road that runs between the stadium and school, has paw prints painted on the pavement. It shows a community that still cares, still remembers past teams and moments and holds them dear.
“It’s really cool to see all the pictures of the seniors,” Callihan said. “It’s a great environment to play in and it’s really special to see those things, like the paw prints.”
Folks who used to go to the school and used to play still paint the town Wildcat green every fall.
“[Senior running back] Jake Cramer wears No. 24, and so did his dad and older brother, and till this day they remember his dad Billy’s crack-back-block in the 1983 state semifinal game,” Adorni said. “They remember Chuck Moore’s great run in 1986. Or the state semifinal in 1987 when they were big underdogs. You still hear people talk about those games.”
That’s Adorni’s favorite part about the whole thing.
“Some high schools have that one iconic guy, but the great thing about Mogadore is that it’s been about families,” he said. “The Murphy family, Adolphs, the Raddish family, the Kramers, the Pollocks. Three or four kids on the team now, I played with their fathers. I coached under Scott Pollock, and Tom Pollock is now on my staff.”
And it all starts at 8 years old, when up-and-coming Wildcats are conditioned with Mogadore’s playing style through a youth program and Bill Rosato Sr., who recently turned 80 years old. By the time Mogadore players graduate, it’s their tenth year in the system.
That tradition — along with others, like how the varsity team practices under the lights on Thursdays before games — has generated three state-championship teams (1979, ‘96, ‘02), four state runners-up (1987, ‘88, ‘00, ‘01) and numerous state final-four appearances.
Mogadore graduates roughly 30 boys in each class. For each one, the bar for football excellence has been set high. And for each one, a lifelong name in community lore is well within reach.
Mogadore is set to play Youngstown Christian on Friday night at Ravenna High School in a Division VI regional final. In local bars 20 years in the future, ‘‘Remember [enter player here]’s game-winner in ‘12?’’ could join Cramer’s block and Moore’s run.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.