Having a full offseason has made a huge difference for Mohawk.
Like all teams, the Warriors entered last fall with no in-person offseason activities after COVID-19 precautions shut down all high school sports that March. The more experienced teams were able to overcome that roadblock better than others.
“At Mohawk, we have to win the offseason to be competitive,” Mohawk coach Tim McCutcheon said. “Last year, I ended up with two freshmen starting on the line as well as a senior that never played before. With no offseason, that really hurt. I don’t like to have freshmen out there any year, but that’s what we had to do and we were not the only ones in that situation.”
The young Warriors finished 1-6 last fall. But, with no offseason restrictions this year, they’ve been hard at work.
“The results of all their work have been great, so far,” McCutcheon said. “It’s a reminder of what an offseason can do, in terms of watching kids develop, that’s for sure. We’ll see how that translates onto the field.
“We’re back to where we want them to be, as far as aggressiveness and competitiveness. We all went through the same stuff, so no excuses. But, I like the competitiveness and the aggressiveness this year. We’ll see what all that means. We have a lot of unproven guys again. You never know what the lights do to these guys on Friday nights. We’ll see.”
Quarterback John Voss returns to lead Mohawk’s offense. The senior led the county with 1,200 yards passing last year.
“For him, last year was his first season starting and he entered with no offseason or 7-on-7s. That doesn’t help you, either, as a starting quarterback, not that we were the only ones in that boat,” McCutcheon said. “But we became too dependent on the pass because we couldn’t run the ball. He had a good season and was an all-conference player.”
The Warriors hope for a balanced attack, which means getting the backfield going. Junior Micco and A.J. Carnuche will get most of the carries. Carnuche will be a top target in the passing game, too, along with Marc Conti. There are a handful of other people battling for time at receiver.
“We have a big quarterback with a strong arm and we’re returning some receivers; we won’t get gun shy there. Last year, it was too much in the air, though, and you can’t win on that alone, I don’t care what level you’re playing,” McCutcheon said.
An improved offensive line should boost the running game. Senior Charlie Shillingburg is back after hurting a knee early last year. Junior Colton Root returns as a starter, too. Sophomores Vincent Perry and Leyton Wagner are returning starters as well. However, there are a number of players battling for time on the line.
“It’s the most competitive summer we’ve had for starting linemen. Some battles may go on until we’re into Week 1,” McCutcheon said. “It’s a rare thing for us to have depth up front where we have that competition. They are young, but I like the attitude they’re bringing to table.”
Shillingburg, Root and Perry all started last year on the defensive line. Jimmy Guerrieri will play a key role there as well. Luke Kuhn and Voss are new starters at inside linebacker. Micco returns at outside linebacker and a handful of players will be in the rotation. Conti and Carnuche bring experience at safety, while the cornerback spots are up for grabs.
The young Warriors hope to get things squared away by the time they open WPIAL Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference play in Week 3.
“It’s the same thing every year in the MAC. This year, we bring back the WPIAL champ. Every year, we usually bring a semifinalist and a couple quarterfinalists and the rest are in the hunt,” McCutcheon said. “That’s what makes the MAC conference so great for spectators and so brutal for coaches.”