For the fourth time this season, Canfield’s football team played a powerhouse from outside the All American Conference Red Tier.
For the fourth time this season, the Cardinals came away with an impressive victory against that non-conference foe. Canfield hosted Div. III playoff contender Dayton Dunbar on Sept. 23 at Bob Dove Field and improved its record to 4-1 with a 21-7 victory. Despite losing to conference rival Howland a week ago, head coach Mike Pavlansky’s club has now defeated Kent Roosevelt, Canton South, Dover and Dunbar proving that it is still a threat to make noise in the upcoming post season playoffs. Bouncing back against Dunbar after losing a last-second heartbreaker to Howland proved some other things about these Cardinals too.
“We really worked hard this week,” said Pavlansky. “We had good focus during the week. I am really happy and pleased with the progress we have made, but we are only half way home.”
Canfield was able to send everyone home happy last Friday night because it did what Pavlansky likes to do the best and that is control the ball with the running game. The Cardinals started fast scoring the first touchdown of the game on a four-yard Jordan Italiano touchdown run. Canfield also got 107 yards rushing from Ben Angelo and 67 yards on the ground from Bryce Jackson. Moving the ball on the ground like that was possible because Canfield’s sturdy offensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage. That is something that unit has done in each of the Cardinals’ four victories.
“Once again we got great play from the guys up front,” said a satisfied Pavlansky.
Italiano did not have to put the ball in the air very often, but when he did he made the most of those throws. The senior completed four of eight passes for 75 yards with one touchdown strike to Joe Tuchek. The senior receiver caught half of Italiano’s completions for 51 yards and that one score. Not only did Tuchek have an effective game last Friday, but he has become one of the best targets on an underrated Canfield receiving clan.
“Tuchek is emerging from a good group of receivers,” Pavlansky said. “He is doing a good job for us.”
Despite winning four out of their first five games, there are still some areas where the Canfield kids are not doing such a good job. Coach Pavlansky would definitely like his team to fasten up those facets heading into the second half of this season.
“There is room for improvement,” the coach explained. “We need to finish drives better in the second half. We are looking for better kickoff coverage on special teams. We can improve our tackling on defense too.”
Not finishing drives has allowed opponents the chance to come back and win games against Canfield’s defense in the fourth quarter. Although the Cardinals stopped Dover from doing just that, Howland was able to get a last second game-winning field goal in week four. Canfield’s foes have had an average starting field position of its own 38 yard line, which is not a good sign for a team that likes to play field position as much as a Pavlansky coached outfit does. As far as bad tackling is concerned, there is always room to get better in that category, but what may have hurt the Cardinals so far this season is the amount of talent on the other side this defense has had to chase around the gridiron.
With that in mind, coming to Canfield this week is another offensively upbeat team in Youngstown East. The Panthers are 2-3 this year, but could have easily beaten Warren Harding in week two to be 3-2 instead. What makes the usually quick Panthers even more potent in 2011 is that they are now a combination of East students and the best players from Chaney (which no longer has a football program). One of those ex-Cowboys is incredibly athletic running back George LeFlore.
“LeFlore is an explosive player,” marveled Pavlansky. “East is such an athletic team. It doesn’t get any easier for us.”
What would make things easier is if Pavlansky’s kids can control the line of scrimmage like it has so many times so far this year.
“We need to limit big plays by playing sound defense,” Pavlansky announced. “One way to do that is to keep the ball on offense.”
Dayton Dunbar had the ball for 62 plays against Canfield last week. If the Cardinals can substantially cut the number of plays the Panthers put together this week there is no reason to think that Canfield won’t be 5-0 out of conference come Saturday.