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Canfield football team works to make playoffs

August 28, 2014
By Nik Zirounis - Town Crier Correspondent , The Town Crier

Though the Canfield football team made the postseason seven out of 10 seasons before 2009, but the team has not made the state playoffs since.

Last year, Cardinal Nation had to endure a 0-5 start that knocked their beloved birds from contention before October, but the team held leads late in almost all five of those losses.

Unless Mariano Rivera comes out of retirement and becomes Canfield's closer, they will have to learn how to put away opponents better.

''We have to give ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter,'' said veteran Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky. ''We didn't make those plays last year, so we have to get better at it.''

The one Cardinal who made most of the plays a season ago was superstar quarterback Kimu Kim. Unfortunately, Kim graduated last summer, taking his 2,000 yards of total offense with him.

Although the chances of replacing the numbers of Kim are slim, Pavlansky feels as if he has some quarterbacking candidates who may fill in nicely.

Senior Aaron Jenkins handled the ball a lot last year from behind center, as a rusher and as a receiver. He should be number one in line to start as signal caller this season.

Kimu's brother, Kato, is a junior who also will see varsity time at quarterback, as will juniors Luke Kelty and Jake Cummings.

It may end up being irrelevant who starts at quarterback, because this Canfield offense will not click unless it is able to run the football well. In this day and age of spread offenses and video game-like scores, Pavlansky always appreciates kicking it old school with a ground and pound attack.

Luckily for the coach, he has some horses in his backfield ready to run over opposing defenses.

''We are deep at tailback,'' he said. ''If you're going to win on Friday night, it's going to be by running the football.''

Senior Drew Rogers is the team's returning leading rusher with over 300 yards last year. He will share carries with fellow senior Luke Whittenberger and junior Troy Williams. Whichever quarterback is behind center will be expected to tote the pigskin, too. Senior Dylan Kuhn will start at fullback, signaling another symbol of bygone offenses.

If the Cardinals wish to be able to claw their way to victories by rushing the football, they will need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Besides 240-pound senior Darien Minor and 61, 265-pound junior Matt Mineok, the Cardinals are a little thin along the interior.

''We need to fill some spots (on the offensive line),'' Pavlansky said.

Many of the kids Canfield will start on the offensive line will double as defensive line starters, which may be a good thing because there are some talented players on that side of the ball.

Senior Cam Tareshawty is a defensive lineman and starting tight end. Juniors Jaret Bunch and Jacob Esarco saw a lot of time as sophomore starters and will come back as two-way players this year. Kuhn comes back to start as linebacker.

Seniors John French, Jordan Brown, Matt Milligan and Mitch Beck will help make up Canfield's secondary as well as play wide receiver.

Aside from the aforementioned group of defenders, Pavlansky has plenty of other options to choose from to either take away jobs or start occasionally.

''We have some depth,'' he said. ''There is a lot of good competition, and some of the starters are being pushed.''

Pavlansky singled out Rogers as a potential linebacker starter. Senior linebacker Joe Kilbert, junior linebacker / tight end Andrew Hallof, senior defensive back Ross Duffett, junior lineman Jack Pallante and sophomore linebacker / fullback Cody Holland also were named as key players.

Having so many possible impact players shows how much the Cardinals have improved since last season.

''The kids are working hard, and they are coming along (from the start of training camp),'' Pavlansky said. ''I'm proud of the seniors. They are watching a lot of film, and communication is good.''

If Pavlansky's group is watching fellow All-American Conference competitors, the athletes may strive for excellence and perform as a team.

This league is stacked with Hubbard at the top and quality teams like Struthers, Niles, Howland and Poland all dotting Canfield's schedule.

That game against the archrival Bulldogs is back to being the regular season finale after a couple of years in the middle of the season.

''It's a great game for both communities,'' said Pavlansky. ''The kids will be ready come week 10.''

The Cards may be ready for Poland, but by the time that game happens, will they have a shot at an All American crown?

Canfield has not had three consecutive losing seasons in nearly 30 years, and with its lack of experience, it's hard to imagine that mark not being met this year. Regardless, the Canfield coach is only worried about what happens on Friday.

''We start the season with defending league champ in Louisville, so it will be a very tough opener,'' Pavlansky said. ''From there, we'll take it one game at a time.''



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