Bad taste in the Wildcats’ mouth after last year’s loss to Niles

Struthers is off to a 2-0 start after last week's 16-9 victory over Crestview.

NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Last September, Niles – who finished 5-5 – registered their signature win as they edged Struthers on the road 21-20. Jordan Soda and Tyler Srbinovich combined to complete 10 of 16 passes for 133 yards and a pair of scores. Srbinovich also led the Dragons in rushing with 45 yards on the ground. The loss was the Wildcats lone setback during the regular season (9-1). AJ Musolino went over 100-yards rushing (127) as he scored twice and Nate Richards also crossed the goal line once for Struthers.

The Red Dragons and the Wildcats competed during a seven-year stretch (1997-2003) where six of those contests were decided by a touchdown or less.

Historic run with close outcomes
2003 – Struthers, 19-16
2002 – Struthers, 21-19
2001 – Niles, 14-7
1999 – Niles, 22-19
1998 – Struthers – 28-27
1997 – Niles – 16-13

Niles has won 12 of the past 20 meetings with Struthers since the 1994 strike which caused the cancellation of the game that year.

The Red Dragons are seeking their second winning season in the past ten years. In Brian Shaner’s first year as the head coach (2012), Niles went 8-2 and secured the 2nd seed in Division 3’s Region 9. In the opening round of the playoffs, Hubbard defeated the Dragons 39-27.

This past week, Niles turned the ball over 5 times as the Dragons fell to Poland 42-10. Robby Savin rushed for 113 yards on 16 carries and a fourth quarter touchdown. Jordan Soda threw for 169 yards on 19 completions.

In his first five years (2012-16), coach Curt Kuntz amassed a record of 33-20 and guided his team to a pair of playoff appearances (2013, 2016). Just to put the turnaround in perspective under coach Kuntz, it took the Wildcats to win 33 games total from September 28, 2001 to October 28, 2011. That’s 105 games played. Under Kuntz, he did it in 53 games. The Wildcat offense last year compiled a 29.9 scoring average. That was the highest single season mark since 1997 (34.4). The defense held the opposition to an average of 13.6 points scored in 2016. The last time that Struthers held opponents to that low of a total was in 1990 (11.4).

Last week, Struthers trailed Crestview 3-0 in the third quarter before running by the Rebels to score a 16-9 win to secure a 2-0 start. The Wildcats were led by Willie Mitchell’s 77 yards on 15 attempts. Nick Adams also finished with 90 yards rushing on just 3 carries. Struthers’ quarterback J.D. Hall threw for 125 yards.

Last Five Meetings
Sept. 9, 2016 – Niles, 21-20
Sept. 11, 2015 – Niles, 39-24
Sept. 19, 2014 – Struthers, 27-0
Oct. 25, 2013 – Struthers, 49-19
Oct. 19, 2012 – Struthers, 36-26

2017 Stats
Scoring Offense: Struthers, 28.5; Niles, 17.0
Scoring Defense: Struthers, 8.5; Niles, 44.5

2017 AAC White Tier Standings
Poland – 1-0 (2-0)
Jefferson – 1-0 (1-1)
Struthers – 0-0 (2-0)
Hubbard – 0-0 (1-1)
Lakeview – 0-0 (1-1)
Edgewood – 0-1 (0-2)
Niles – 0-1 (0-2)

Upcoming Schedule
Struthers
Sept. 15 – Jefferson (1-1)
Sept. 22 – at Canfield (2-0)
Sept. 29 – Poland (2-0)

Niles
Sept. 15 – East (0-2)
Sept. 22 – at Lakeview (1-1)
Sept. 29 – Hubbard (1-1)

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