Ever since the start of this football season it seems like a weekly occurrence that Canfield was playing a team that had either made numerous trips to the playoffs or had playoff aspirations this year.
Another one of those battles took place last Friday in Canfield when the Cardinals hosted a proud, yet desperate, Canal Fulton Northwest squad. The Indians came to Canfield with a 5-2 record, but needed to keep winning if they were to be invited to the post season party for the 13th time in 14 years. Northwest played like a team much more in need of a victory and it showed in its 26-17 triumph. That loss by Canfield did not end the Cardinals’ playoff chances by any means, but it did teach head coach Mike Pavlansky’s kids what can happen when you don’t play like your season depends on you winning.
“We didn’t play with a sense of urgency,” said the coach. “(Northwest) knew that a loss would knock them out of the playoffs and they played that way.”
The Indians passionate play started with the opening kickoff when superstar running back Ronnie Beers received the kick and scampered 86 yards to the Canfield nine yard line. He would then score a touchdown to put the Indians on top early. Besides the big kick return by Beers, Northwest also had passing touchdowns of 53 and 80 yards by brilliant quarterback Nick Riley. Too many chunk plays by the visitors put the Cardinals in a bad spot all night.
“We gave a lot of big plays away,” muttered Pavlansky. “You can’t do that against a playoff caliber team.”
Another thing a team cannot do against a good team is turn the ball over. Canfield uncharacteristically threw three interceptions that squashed some important drives. It was bad enough that the Pavlansky-led Cardinals had to put the ball in the air a lot, but to have three of those passes picked really peeved Pavlansky.
“Anytime you lose the turnover battle it is hard to win,” said Pavlansky disappointedly.
Although the Cardinals fell behind in the game they did keep it close with some large gaining plays of their own. Quarterback Jordan Italiano had over 100 yards rushing in the first half and would have kept it going after halftime if he didn’t reaggravate an injury. Ben Angelo owned the biggest play of the night for Canfield when he took a handoff from replacement quarterback Mike Hughes and zipped a halfback pass to Mike Ross for a 51-yard score. That gorgeous gadget play cut the Indians’ lead to two points, but it also marked the last score of the night for the home team.While the win by Northwest kept it in the playoff hunt, coach Pavlansky would not even discuss his 6-2 team’s chances of its own playoff appearance.
“We are not concerned with the playoffs right now,” he said sternly. “We need to get ready for these last two league games.”
The first of those two tilts will be this Friday when Canfield welcomes Niles to Bob Dove Field for Senior Night. The main question this week, however, will be how many of those seniors will show up? Italiano is day-to-day with his injury, Hughes is hurt, Jimmy Rousher is ailing and the worst news of the week is that Anthony Ross is done for the season.
“Anthony Ross is out for the year with a broken wrist,” Pavlansky said somberly. “He will be a great loss because he brings a lot of passion to our defense. He is a great young kid and he will be missed.”
Niles is not as shorthanded as the Cardinals may be this Friday, but at this point of the season, the injury report reads a lot like the printout of one’s cell phone bill. It is very confusing and unbearable to look at.
“Everyone is banged up at this time,” Pavlansky said. “We have talked since day one that we need everyone to get their practice reps in case their number is called. It is time for the next man to step up.”
The Red Dragons enter this week’s matchup with a .500 record after being manhandled by Howland, 41-14. Niles is 1-2 in the Red Tier and with Poland waiting for Canfield in week 10, one may wonder if this is a trap game for the Cards. Coach Pavlansky insists the only traps this Friday will be the ones caused when his offensive line is opening running lanes.
“We will get it done (on Friday),” insisted Pavlansky. “There is absolutely no way we will look (past Niles) to Poland. The focus this week is on Senior Night and getting a win over Niles.”