The 2011 football season is all about redemption for the Canfield Cardinals.
In 2010, the Cardinals were unceremoniously absent from the state playoffs as they stumbled to a 5-5 record. Part of the problem was that Canfield took on one of the most grueling schedules in the area. The other problem was that the Cardinals were a lot greener than in years past. Head coach Mike Pavlansky is using last season’s failure as motivation for better play this season.
“This season is a chance to redeem ourselves,” said Pavlansky sternly from the team’s locker room. “(In 2010) we beat the teams we should have beaten and lost to five playoff teams. That wasn’t what we wanted.”
One thing that coach Pavlansky does want is more experience and he should have that this year thanks to 22 returning seniors and 17 returning letterwinners.
“We have a good nucleus and good senior leadership,” Pavlansky stated.
As a bonus, some of that senior guidance will come at the most important position.
“We have two very capable quarterbacks,” said Pavlansky. “Jordan Italiano (who had over 1100 combined yards and 15 touchdowns last year) and Mike Hughes are seniors who played for us last year and will split time this year in our two quarterback rotation. Both are solid quarterbacks who understand the game well.”
Besides understanding the game of football in general, the two field generals understand the brand of football coach Pavlansky likes to play.
“They manage the game well,” said the coach. “They are good running quarterbacks which we like and are good at the short passing game.”
As always, Pavlansky would rather pass on all passes and just run the football down the opposing defense’s throats. That will be easy this year because the Cardinals carry a good stable of rushers. Senior Anthony Ross and junior Tommy Ciccolelli will provide punch at fullback and open holes for speedy senior tailbacks Ben Angelo and Bryce Jackson who steps into the hole left by his graduated older brother Blake.
“Angelo lettered as a sophomore and is coming back from injury,” said Pavlansky, “and Jackson has had a great camp.”
Also having a great camp is the core of Canfield’s offensive line. The line is anchored by senior center Conner Hoelzel and he is flanked at the tackles by fellow senior letterwinners Brian Benson and Tylor Rhoads. With 3/5 of his line set, Pavlansky would like to see a couple kids step up at the inside line spots.
“We are searching for a couple of guards,” Pavlansky said honestly.
The longtime Canfield coach is also searching for some able bodies to lead his linebacker group. Canfield lost three starting linebackers off last year’s squad so filling those holes will be important. The Cardinals do have some decent options at linebacker though with Hughes, Hoelzel (three sacks in 2010), Ross, Ciccolelli and surprising sophomore Kimu Kim. Italiano and his 80 tackles lead the secondary with the above-mentioned offensive linemen doubling up on the defensive line. The Cardinals will still like to discover a strong candidate who can man the nose position.
“We have good competition at nose guard,” Pavlansky said, “but we will have to play more kids two ways than usual. We have a small junior and sophomore class.”
With the underclass undermanned Pavlansky will lean on the seniors more than ever. Three other twelfth-graders who won letters in the past and are poised to play pivotal roles in 2011 are receiver Mike Ross, tight end/defensive lineman Jimmy Rousher and two-way player Danny Delahunty who is returning to the roost.
“Delahunty is another kid who earned a letter as a sophomore and battled injury last year,” said Pavlansky.
Junior Mark Blanco and sophomore Alec Buchenic are two of the other non seniors who are “in the mix” for starting roles according to Coach Pavlansky.
Speaking of mixing it up, that is exactly what Canfield will do immediately this year when it visits Kent Roosevelt on August 26 for the season opener. The Kent club will be the first of six playoff teams that Canfield will clash with in 2011. That list also includes Dover, Howland and Dayton Dunbar in consecutive weeks. Of course, the annual showdown with rival Poland is marked for the final game of the year on Oct. 28. Both Canfield and Poland hope to still be in the All American Conference Red Tier race by the time that game is played. Beating league favorite Howland will be the obstacle for both schools.
“Howland is clearly the team to beat (in the Red Tier),” Pavlansky announced. “They beat us pretty good here at home last year and we have to go up there (this year).”
Revenge against the Tigers may be just what Pavlansky’s boys need to get that season redemption they are searching for.