For three quarters last Friday at Bob Dove Field the contest was moving along at Canfield’s pace with the Cardinals leading 14-13 and their defense seemingly in control. There are four quarters in a football game, however, and that period has pestered Canfield’s defense all season. The two teams combined to score 30 points in that final frame, but it was the Red Dragons who scored the most to upset Canfield 29-28. Canfield’s loss did not close the coffin completely on its playoff chances, but it certainly drove one huge nail into the side of it. Not that Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky is bothered with talk about the postseason at this point.
“We can’t concern ourselves (with the playoffs),” muttered Pavlansky after the loss last week. “It is not important right now. What is important is week 10.”
Week 10, of course, is Poland week and one would have figured the Cardinals would be 7-2 instead of 6-3 at the start of that contest. Nursing a one point lead over the .500 Red Dragons all the Cardinals needed to do was make a few stops in the fourth period and then bring on Poland. Unfortunately for Canfield, Niles quarterback Zack Bailey and receiver Darius Harris had other ideas for how last Friday night’s game would end. Bailey found Harris on two long touchdown passes covering 133 yards in the last stanza and even though the Cardinals collected touchdown runs of 11 yards from Bryce Jackson and 33 yards from Jordan Italiano, Niles was able to escape with a win in its pocket.
“It’s disappointing,” said Pavlansky about the nail-biting defeat. “(Niles) scored one more point than we did. We gave up a couple of homeruns (in the fourth quarter).”
Making the loss even harder to swallow for Pavlansky was the fact that last Friday was also Senior Night in Canfield.
“Anytime you lose on Senior Night it’s very disappointing,” said Pavlansky somberly.
Sending the seniors off unsatisfied happened because of the collapse of the Canfield defense over the final twelve minutes. Cardinal defenders did a nice job through three periods keeping the Red Dragons away from the end zone, but the bad fourth led to Canfield’s third defeat. While a lot of the blame for the defeat can be placed on Canfield’s defense, Coach Pavlansky put some on his offense too.
“We couldn’t finish the deal on offense,” Pavlansky said about his team’s inability to control the fourth period clock. “Even in some of our wins this year we gave the ball back on offense and gave (opponent’s) offense a chance for a comeback. We have to improve on both sides of the ball.”
On the bright side for Canfield, quarterback Italiano, who has been battling a lingering injury lately, looked like his old self racking up 140 yards rushing and 125 yards passing with a touchdown. Ben Angelo also aided the Canfield rushing attack with 95 yards as the Cards came away with 280 yards total on the ground. Joe Tuchek had over 80 yards receiving while Mike Ross caught a 6-yard touchdown pass.
Touchdown passes are sure to be flying this week too, but Pavlansky hopes those throws are not coming from the other side. Poland possesses one of the most brilliant quarterbacks in the area in senior Colin Reardon and he will be a handful to contain. The three year starter has a verbal agreement to attend Miami of Ohio and his future is so bright because he does so many things well.
“(Reardon) is a Division I quarterback for a reason,” said Pavlansky admiringly. “He has great command for the game and is well deserving of everything he gets.”
Two things the Cardinals will be getting this week are the returns of important players Jimmy Rousher and Mike Hughes who both have been battling the injury bug.
“Getting Rousher and Hughes back will be a shot in the arm for us,” said Pavlansky.
Thanks to that shot in the arm, Canfield will have a better shot of beating the Bulldogs and ascending into the playoffs. Coach Pav stressed last weekend that playing Poland is like a playoff atmosphere anyway so there is no reason to look beyond the Bulldogs.
“We always look forward to this week 10 game,” the Coach said enthusiastically. “We will try to have a good week of practice and see what happens Friday night.”
Photos by Cindy DeRose, Town Crier correspondent
Canfield’s Conner Loze moves the ball down field towards Niles on Friday. In spite of a valiant effort, the Cards fell to the Red Dragons, 29-28.