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Clutch play doesn't go their way

Cards drop close one in Howland

September 19, 2011
By Nik Zirounis
For the second week in a row, Canfield head football coach Mike Pavlansky faced a do-or-die decision at the end of a football game.

After scoring a touchdown to come within one point of tying Dover in week three, the usually conservative coach went for a two-point conversion to win the game. That move was marvelous as the Cardinals succeeded in scoring the deuce to garner the victory over the perennial playoff contender. Last Friday in Howland, Pavlansky was faced with the identical situation. Down 27-20 late in the fourth quarter, Canfield completed a 12-play, 51-yard drive when quarterback Jordan Italiano slithered into the end zone from 2 yards out. In a moment of deja vu, Pavlansky decided to go for the lead and, just as he did versus Dover, called the same play as the previous touchdown. Italiano crossed the goal line again and the Cardinals took a 28-27 lead.

The only difference from a week ago, however, was that Howland had 30 seconds to snatch victory away from the Cardinals' clutches. A quick, five-play drive ended when Howland's Connor Gilmour kicked a game-winning 38-yard field goal to give the Tigers a thrilling 30-28 last moment win. The loss was Canfield's first of the season, but coach Pavlansky admitted he wouldn't have done anything different if given the opportunity again.

"We try not to put the kids into unsuccessful situations," explained Pavlansky about his decision to go for the lead. "We knew we had a chance. We put the ball in Jordan's hands and him run behind our leaders on the offensive line."

Perhaps the only thing Pavlansky would have done differently is kick the ensuing kickoff after the go-ahead score a little farther than he instructed. Howland was able to get a good return off of Canfield's short squib kick to start its game-finishing drive at its own 40-yard line.

"That didn't work out too well," admitted Pavlansky about the squibber.

Other than the kickoff, Canfield did all it could to keep Howland away from field goal field position. The Cardinals tightened up their defense, but ended up having to watch helplessly as Gilmour kicked the Tigers to victory.

"We had a roughing the passer play that didn't help us," Pavlansky said. "Other than that we had great coverage on defense. Mike Ross could have had an interception on one pass. Ben Angelo just missed a sack which would have probably killed the rest of the clock. We made a nice stop on third and nine tackling the receiver in bounds correctly, but they had a time out left. You have to give their kid (Gilmour) credit (for making the game-winning field goal)."

The win for Howland was its second straight one in last-minute fashion. While the Tigers remained unbeaten and started the season 1-0 in the All American Red Tier, Canfield (3-1/0-1) fell for the first time this year.

"We've played two great teams two weeks in a row," said Pavlansky. "We knew these games would go down to the wire."

There is a pretty good chance that a third straight Canfield contest will go down to the wire too. Into Canfield this Friday comes 3-1 and past playoff participant Dayton Dunbar. Dunbar is a Division III team that is no stranger to the post season or to exciting games. The Wolverines have scored 130 points in their three wins this season and after watching them on film coach Pavlansky knows why.

"(Dunbar) has great team speed," said the coach. "They are very fast, probably the fastest team we will face this year. They are also very athletic."

Probably the most athletic Dunbar player is six-foot, two-inch, 180-pound senior wideout Latrell Turner. With his rare combination of size and speed, Turner may be the most dangerous Wolverine since Hugh Jackman.

"Turner will be tough to stop," said Pavlansky bluntly. "He had three touchdowns last week and looks like he can score each time he touches the ball."

Playing a historically great team like this Dayton outfit is a tough task regardless of when the contest occurs. Playing the game after a gut-wrenching loss inside the conference like Canfield has to makes things tougher. Coach Pav believes, however, that his veteran bunch can bounce back in a big way.

"We will put (the Howland game) behind us and move on," Pavlansky insisted. "Our senior leadership will make sure there will not be a letdown."

Article Photos

Canfield and Howland match up at Howland on Sept. 16. The Cards lost the close one, 30-27.



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