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Seniors should lead Cardinals back to playoffs

August 8, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

There is little doubt that the Canfield football team is one of the best in the state.

Canfield won its first 12 games a season ago before losing to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the regional championship round of the state playoffs. The amount of talent returning to Canfield in 2018 has earned the team a top 20 preseason state ranking. Head coach Mike Pavlansky, who is entering his 18th year at the school, appreciates the respect, but also knows nothing will be handed to his squad.

"It's great to hear that people think we're going to be good," said Pavlansky, "but we have to take care of what's going on in our locker room."

One of the most important things that the longtime coach must take care of is finding a starting quarterback. Gone is sensational Vinny Fiorenza and his 2500 plus total yards and 17 total touchdowns. As if August isn't hot enough, the three-headed race for that quarterback spot in Canfield added some sizzle to the summer.

"We have a great competition going for quarterback," said Pavlansky during the first week of full practice. All three would-be signal callers are seniors led perhaps by Max Dawson. He may have had a slight edge over Trov Tyson and Mehlyn Clinkscale, but really it was too early to tell. No doubt, Coach Pavlansky will play the hot hand even if that person isn't the one who takes the first snaps Week 1 versus Louisville.

"We have a long way to go (in the quarterback competition)," said Pavlansky.

Canfield scored almost 30 points per game a year ago and racked up 330 yards of offense per outing. Not only was that because of Fiorenza, but tailback Paul Brienz contributed over 1100 total yards too. Senior Colin Hritz will be called upon to make up for some of that production as will receiver Matt Zaremski. The senior returns to the lineup off of a 36 catch, 452-yard junior campaign.

Zaremski will also see time at safety along with Hritz, but they will be novices back there. In fact, Canfield's entire secondary will have a new look in 2018. The rest of Cardinals' defense is not as green. Senior P.J. Hallof is a 6-foot-4, 225- pound lineman who also roams offensively at tight end. Vince Giordano is a 250-pound senior who will share the line with Hallof. Jarod Tincher is another senior that will play on both sides of the line. At 6-foot-3 and 290-pounds he certainly has the size to be super. Then there's senior Tyler Stein who is moving to linebacker this season. The state wrestling champ will be ready to lay the smack down on all opposing offensive players as he did a year ago when he racked up 9 quarterback sacks. He earned 1st Team All-All American Conference for his efforts.

The Cardinals special teams will also be well represented with the return of six-foot-two senior kicker/punter Ian Kristan who was a force on field goals, kickoffs and pinning the other team deep in its own territory last year.

This group of athletic upperclassmen really has Coach Pavlansky's heart pulsating.

"We have a really nice senior class," said Pavlansky. "I love our senior leadership."

One thing the coach doesn't enjoy is a team full of complacent kids. Pavlansky's men stayed hungry throughout their unbeaten regular season last year and took St. V's to the limit before bowing 13-10. He wants this year's gang to make their own history though.

"We try not to live in the past," said Pavlansky. "We need to come to work everyday."

After the home opener with Louisville, the Cards have important tests with Struthers, Boardman and Howland as part of their slate. The game everyone is circling, naturally, is the Week 10 season wrap up with Poland. While playing Poland in the final week seems normal, this year's showdown is extra special because it may be the last one these two storied schools play for a while. Poland will be leaving the AAC for a new conference next year so this could be good-bye.

"It's a shame this may be our last year (playing Poland)," Pavlansky said, "but hopefully the two sides can come together on something."

Judging by the way Canfield dismantled its nemesis 38-0 last October, perhaps Poland may not be as eager to rekindle its relationship with its archrival.



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