One of the toughest seasons in recent Canfield football history came to a close last Friday night in Hubbard.
The Cardinals were clouted by the Eagles 58-28 in the final game of the season to end the year 2-8 (just 1-5 and tied for last in the All American Conference American Division). To say this season was difficult for the Cardinals would be an understatement, but they did all they could to keep close in games with a very inexperienced squad. Although head coach Mike Pavlansky had to endure one of his most strenuous seasons, he never complained about how his youngsters performed.
"I don't have an answer (for what went wrong in 2012)," said Pavlansky from his home last weekend, "but I appreciated the effort every Friday night. (Canfield's record) was not due to a lack of effort by any means."
In Hubbard, the answer all night for the Eagles was running back L.J. Scott who dealt the Cards 191 yards rushing and three touchdowns just in the first half as his team built a 44-14 halftime lead. For the night, L.J. was more than O.K. with 244 yards and five scores. Hubbard totaled 330 yards on the ground for the game. In week 9, the Canfield defense had to try to contain Howland's heroic rusher De'Veon Smith who is a candidate for Mr. Football in Ohio. One week later, Canfield failed at subduing Scott. While Smith is off to Michigan in the fall, the Cardinals will have to contend with the sophomore Scott for two more seasons. Better rush defense will be paramount next year for the Cardinals' defense especially considering they will be losing senior run stoppers like Mark Blanco, Dominec Reinthaler and Tommy Kaleel.
Offensively, the Cardinals scored a single touchdown in each quarter last Friday showing off some of its future stars in the process. Junior quarterback Kimu Kim collected the Cardinals' first touchdown midway through the first quarter on a five-yard run. He would lead Canfield in rushing with 101 yards against Hubbard. Kim shared time at the signal caller spot in 2012 and was reliable all year as both a runner and passer. Junior Jake Dawson saw some time behind center as well, but he was better utilized when he was able to showcase his sensational speed. That quickness was evident against the Eagles when Dawson returned a kick 92-yards for a touchdown in the second stanza. Other scores by Canfield underclassmen came from junior Alec Heldreth who scored on a 52-yard fumble recovery and sophomore Aaron Jenkins who finished the night's scoring with a nine-yard run in the final quarter.
Having such a solid nucleus of younger kids who were able to pick up valuable varsity experience will hopefully give the Cardinals a claw up on their competition before next year. Now all coach Pavlansky and his staff will need to do is come up with ways to best take advantage of this talent.
"We grew as a team all year," said Pavlansky. "We will search for ways this offseason to best use our kids. One way to get better is for the kids to put a lot of work in the weight room in the offseason."
A few of the other kids who won't be in Canfield's weight room when conditioning commences will be offensive stalwarts Conner Kesner, Nate Rusu, Tommy Ciccolelli and Kyle Nagy. The loss to Hubbard did not do much to destroy Canfield on the won/loss ledger, but it did disappointingly cut the careers of that quartet and the other twelfth-graders.
"The seniors made us better," said Pavlansky. "They were leaders all year. They sent us in a good direction for next year."
Five of the 10 teams Canfield played this year are headed to the playoffs. Facing a schedule like that for any team is a challenge, but it is seemingly impossible to overcome for a team as green as the Cardinals were in 2012. Coach Pavlansky wants to keep this team together over the next few months and wants to come back in August with a team ready to get back to the top. Knowing the history of Pavlansky and the commitment of the Canfield community, it will be hard to bet against the Cards doing just that.