Very few rivalries in the area have the ability to whip a crowd into a frenzy more than Canfield versus Poland.
Another chapter of this novel was written on Dec. 20 in Canfield and, once again, those in attendance were not disappointed. This tightly contested showdown needed an extra period to decide things and in the end the Cardinals pulled out a thrilling 55-51 overtime triumph.
"It was a great game between two rivals," said Canfield head coach Todd Muckleroy. "It's what people pay money to see."
Photos by Cindy DeRose, Town Crier
Cole Pryjma, a senior from Canfield, takes aim at the hoop as he nets two on Dec. 17. Canfield went on to win the game against Struthers 74 to 58.
People also pay money to see players make spectacular plays. That is exactly what Canfield senior Andrew Midgley did late in the overtime period. With 1:30 remaining and his team ahead by a point, Midgley stole the ball from the Bulldogs and raced down the court uncontested. Channeling his inner Blake Griffin, the 6'7" Midgley made a decision to leap high into the air and slam the ball through the basket. His successful stuff gave the Cardinals a three-point lead. It also almost gave his coach an ulcer.
"I was a little nervous, but it was an exciting play," Muckleroy said. "The whole place was up when he was going down court. (Midgley) made a big play in a big game."
Fellow senior Jarret Vrabel also made some big plays last Friday and finished with a game-high 22 points and ten rebounds. Midgley would make 15 points. Brady Clark would end the game with 9 points. Cole Pryjma scored 7 points including the game-clinching free throws in the waning seconds of overtime.
The fireworks on the offensive end were spectacular, but Coach Muckleroy maintained that his team would not have been able to sneak away with the win if it wasn't for some stellar defense.
"Poland is a great team so (after the dunk by Midgley) we knew the lead wasn't safe," said Muckleroy. "We defended better this game. We will need defensive efforts like that. This was the first time all year we put it all together."
It sure looked like the Cardinals had everything together a few nights earlier against Struthers. The Cards once again got some balanced scoring and were able to overcome 11 three-pointers by the Wildcats as they subdued Struthers 74-58. Midgley may not have had any earth-shattering slams, but he did net 19 points. Vrabel picked up 15 points. Pryjma and Mike Yourstowsky each tallied 11 points.
Thanks to the two wins last week, Canfield (4-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference) is in a virtual three-way tie atop the All American Division with arch enemies Poland and Fitch. Of course, that is exactly what Coach Muckleroy predicted this preseason.
"I figured it would be a tight race between us three all year," he said. "It's great that we all play each other again. Hopefully we'll be a better team by then."
The Cards will not see the Falcons again until Jan. 24 and the Bulldogs until Feb. 7. In the interim, Muckleroy's men have Boardman to prepare for on Dec. 27.
"This will be a good non league test for us," said Muckleroy about the Spartans.
After the Boardman game, Canfield will have some time away from court action, but no worries. It will give Midgley more time to practice his dunk moves.