For the second time this season, the Canfield football team played a game a week following a devastating loss.
For the second time this season, those Cardinals bounced back in a big way. Coming off a 56-0 beat down by Dover, Canfield traveled to Beaver Local to kick off its All American Red Tier schedule. The Cardinals came home from that short road trip with a terrific 28-20 victory to even their record at 2-2.
"It was a great effort," said Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky sounding pleased. "We battled to the end and came up with some big plays."
Actually coach, the team came up with three big plays in a row. With just three and a half minutes left in the game and Canfield ahead by eight points, the Beavers were situated at the Cardinals' 12 yard line. All that separated the home team and tie score was a touchdown and a two-point conversion. The Beavers attempted three consecutive pass plays into the end zone, but each one of those tosses was deftly defended by the Cardinals' secondary ending Beaver Local's drive.
"We stood tall on defense in the fourth quarter," said Pavlansky. "We made a huge stop when (Beaver Local) was driving to tie the game."
As overjoyed as coach Pavlansky was with that fourth period defensive play, he was even more ecstatic with what his offense did after Beaver Local failed on fourth down. The Cardinals took control of the ball and seized control of the contest by running the final three plus minutes off the clock. A 25-yard run by sensational sophomore Nick Annichenni aided in Canfield's ball control. Whenever a Canfield team can play strong defense and clock-killing offense, it is a euphoric day in Cardinal Nation.
"We were able to run the clock out in both the Alliance game (a week 2 win) and in this game," said Pavlansky excitedly. "That is important for our young offense to do."
Coach Pav is also a stickler when it comes to playing special on special teams so he was jacked up about what happened halfway through the first quarter last Friday night. After the Beavers bounced ahead 6-0, Canfield's amazing Annichenni electrified the Beaver backers in attendance by returning the ensuing kickoff 91-yards for a touchdown. That remarkable kick return put Canfield ahead to stay 7-6.
"We work a lot on special teams each week in practice," explained Pavlansky. "There was some great blocking (on the kick return) and Nick was able to find a crease."
Canfield increased its lead right before the end of the first frame when Conner Kesner kicked through Beaver Local's defense for a 36-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Kimu Kim then found Kyle Nagy on a nifty 66-yard touchdown pass to put Canfield in front 21-6 midway through the second quarter. Kim would hit on six of eight passes for 126 yards and that one touchdown. The junior also jolted the Beavers for 61 yards rushing.
Kesner would collect 72 yards on the ground while Annichenni attained 65. Canfield totaled 320 yards rushing and amassed nearly 450 yards of total offense.
If the Cardinals wish to go above .500 for the first time this season they will have to perform at an exemplary level again versus a very familiar foe. This is "Poland Week" in Canfield and although the showdown with the enemy has come in Week 5 instead of the traditional Week 10, nobody in Canfield will sleep through it.
"We prefer to play this game in week 10," stated Pavlansky, "but it will still be a big week for each community. Poland is a good team who will be stinging from its loss to Niles."
Indeed the 2-2 Bulldogs are smarting from their heartbreaking 33-28 loss in their first conference game of the season. In that week 4 disappointment, junior quarterback Jake Wolfe was wonderful passing for 280 yards. At 6 feet-4 inches, Wolfe has the size and arm strength to cut through any defensive alignment.
"Wolfe is a pretty good quarterback," Pavlansky said. "He did well versus Niles."
Wolfe's partner in crime on offense is senior Anthony Marchionda. Although Marchionda may be a smaller back measuring 5 feet=9 inches and 175 pounds, he is mercurial because he never seems to be in the same place on two successive plays.
"We need to be aware of where Marchionda is at all times," warned Pavlansky.
Poland also plays a punishing brand of defense using its broad defensive line so it may be hard for the Cardinals to establish the run as much as their coach wishes. In fact, a strong run game by Canfield could go a long way in sending the Bulldogs away from Bob Dove Field licking their wounds.
"We need to keep our defense off the field by establishing our offense," Pavlansky insisted. "If our defense has to be on the field as much as it was at Dover, it could be a long, long night."