The Cardinals were upended at the home of their archrival, 21-7 knocking them out of contention for a playoff spot in 2011. That loss was the third in a row to end the year for the Cardinals (who started this year 6-1) and although you can point to any of those other setbacks for reasons why Canfield will not be attending the post-season party, the last loss to the Bulldogs was the one that hurt the most.
“We ran into a good team,” said Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky whose team finished 6-4 (1-3 in the All American Red Tier). “It just wasn’t meant to be this year.”
Poland plays its home games on the field that was named for Pavlansky’s father Dave, but there is never any family love between the Bulldogs and the Cardinals. The Bulldogs pulled out all the stops, including a flea-flicker, in the game that determined their playoff fate. Poland will play unbeaten Minerva in round 1. Canfield’s defense, which played pretty well throughout the night, were stunned by that gadget toss and two other long Poland plays that each set up short Jerry Lawman touchdown runs.
“(Poland) had some big plays and were able to cash in on all of them,” said Pavlansky dejectedly.
Heading into the contest, Pavlansky was leery of letting Poland quarterback Colin Reardon have too many chances to move the ball down the field against his defense. Canfield’s game plan was to control the ball by rushing effectively versus Poland’s front seven, but the Cardinals were held under 50 yards total on the ground. Aside by a fine-looking 18-play 80-yard drive in the second quarter that culminated with a Jordan Italiano to Jimmy Rousher touchdown pass, Canfield’s offense sputtered silently.
“We were only able to get that one drive going offensively,” Pavlansky said. “We were not able to keep (Poland) off the field enough.”
Ultimately, the Cardinals were not able to win enough games this season either. Although Pavlansky did not know for sure at the end of last week’s loss if his team was indeed done for the year, West Geauga’s win on Saturday afternoon officially sealed their fate. It also sealed the fate of 22 sensational Canfield seniors who wore the Cardinal red and black for the final time in Poland.
“We had a great senior class and I am proud of those seniors,” said Pavlansky. “We don’t really know why things turned out the way they did, but hopefully they will turn this into a positive sometime later in life.”
Italiano and Rousher are just two of those terrific 22 kids who will be graduating in the summer. Joining that duo will be huge contributors such as Mike Hughes, Bryce Jackson, Mike and Anthony Ross, Ben Angelo, Joe Tuchek, Connor Hoelzel and Tylor Rhoads just to name a few. While that group and the others will be missed it never is a rebuilding year in Canfield so that means the Cards will be expected to compete for a conference crown and playoff berth again next fall.
“We have some good kids coming back who will be ready to play,” said Pavlansky who wasn’t quite ready to evaluate his 2012 roster much more in depth than that.
One thing for sure is that every Cardinal will be well conditioned when they hit the practice field for two-a-days.
“Our kids have a great weight room program that they follow and will put in a lot of hard work this offseason,” said Pavlansky. “Our coaching staff will also come up with plans for a great off season.”
That off season may have started a little earlier than coach Pav may have liked, but rest assured Cardinal Nation, the coach will do everything in his power to make sure the season lasts longer next year.
Canfield’s Carter Rhoads carries the ball for big yardage against Poland on Oct. 28. Aaron King from Poland just can’t bring him down as the two rivals battled to a 21-7 Poland win.