For nearly 40 minutes of last Friday's football game between Canfield and Akron Ellet it seemed as if the Cardinals would win for the first time this season.
Canfield controlled the ball and, more importantly the clock, as it built a 14-0 lead early in the fourth quarter. Then three minutes into the final frame, the visitors from Akron were able to pick up their first score. That spearheaded a horrible sequence that has become all too recognizable to Cardinal Nation so far this season.
Once again, the Cardinals could not hold a lead and allowed Ellet to eliminate any chance of Canfield snapping its ten game losing streak. Akron Ellet edged Canfield 16-14 and left head coach Mike Pavlansky singing a familiar tune.
"As I've said before (this season) we have to find a way to finish," said a frustrated Pavlansky over the weekend. "We hurt ourselves in all three phases of the game. You can't do that against a playoff caliber team like Ellet. They are undefeated for a reason."
Ellet stayed undefeated because after cutting Canfield's lead in half with just under nine minutes left in the contest, it came back with a minute left and concluded a nice drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass. Still, there was only 50 seconds remaining so surely the Cardinals would hang on for win number one. The Orangemen had one more trick up their sleeve however. Senior Ray Cheek recovered an awesome onside kick attempt that set up the Orangemen for a game-winning drive. A couple completions later, Ellet's senior kicker Andrew Neal nailed a 34-yard field goal to allow the Orange to put Canfield in the pits.
Although the game ended bitterly against the Orange, Canfield did have a lead into the fourth quarter and that didn't happen by accident. Once again Canfield proved that it could play well offensively and control the clock much to the joy of its head coach. Quarterback Kimu Kim had two touchdown runs in the second half from 18 and one yard away and finished the night with 167 yards rushing. As a team, Canfield topped 200 yards on the ground because its interior was able to eat up the Ellet defense.
"Our offensive line played a tremendous game," Pavlansky said happily. "Our defensive line played tremendously too. We did a good job on both fronts."
In fact, the Cardinals were almost even with Ellet in total yards for the game so set aside the crazy last minute and Canfield indeed would have pulled an upset. That would have been a victory that would have gone a long way for the Canfield kids' spirit.
"We just need to win a game to get some confidence," said Pavlansky.
Well, there is an enormous opportunity for a confidence builder this week for Pavlansky's kids. On Friday night, the Cards collide with 4-0 Poland on the road. Nobody has to remind anyone in Canfield that it is Poland week.
"Truly the records don't matter," Pavlansky admitted Sunday evening. "I'll trust we'll have a hard week of practice so we can take it to another playoff caliber team."
If there was ever a time that Canfield could catch Poland napping it may be this week because the Bulldogs got to 4-0 by winning an emotional contest over Niles in week 3. Of course, coach Pav discounts that notion.
"It doesn't matter who you played the week before this game," said the coach. "They'll be ready and so will we."
Beating the Bulldogs means bashing their bullying rushing game that eclipsed 200 yards against the Red Dragons. It will be another tough test for Canfield's front seven.
"(Poland) is tremendous up front," Pavlansky noted. "We have to stop their running game and we need to find a way to run the football."
And if Canfield should have a lead late in the fourth period, it needs to find a way to seal the deal as well.