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Cardinals shut out Aviators for second straight time

September 5, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

A huge reason why the Canfield football team won its first 12 games a season ago was its dominating defense.

With a lot of new faces on the Cardinals' offense this year, that unit is expected to struggle until it gains a little more experience. That is why head coach Mike Pavlansky is counting on his defenders to rise up again in 2018.

After a good effort in Week 1 against Louisville, Canfield's defense absolutely destroyed Week 2 opponent Alliance. The Cardinals held Alliance to just five first downs and less than 100 yards of total offense as they annihilated the Aviators 35-0 last Friday night. It marked the second straight season in which Canfield shutout Alliance. It also once again made the Cardinals 2-0 to start the season.

"It's exciting to be 2-0 and I thought we took some steps forward (on Friday night)," said Pavlansky. "We had a tremendous defensive effort. To hold (Alliance) under 100 yards after they had 150 yards rushing against a good Hubbard team (in Week 1) is a great accomplishment."

Making things greater for Pavlansky's kids is that they did it in a hostile setting in Alliance. The Aviators host their home games at Mount Union Stadium so a lot of times the atmosphere for a big game is college-like. That didn't upset Pavlansky's upstart club.

"Our young team did a great job handling their business in a tough environment," said the coach. "Playing in a historic stadium like that is tough."

Scoring against Canfield's defense is also a tough task as Alliance has witnessed first hand for two years. The Aviators' inability to move the ball in the first half enabled the Cardinals to take a 14-0 lead into halftime. Canfield scored both of those touchdowns in the second quarter on back-to-back scoring runs by junior Nick Crawford. His first score was from four yards out midway through the second quarter and his second one happened a couple minutes later on a seven-yard jaunt. Up two scores, the Cardinals defense started to really pin its collective ears back and get after the Alliance offense in the second half. Harassing pressure up front forced the Alliance quarterback to toss an errant pass into the hands of Canfield's Colin Hritz who returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 Cardinal lead. A few moments later, senior safety Paris Bumgardner forced and recovered an Alliance fumble inside its own 10-yard line. Two plays after that turnover, Crawford tripled his pleasure with his third touchdown run. Wildcat quarterback Mehlyn Clinkscale would complete Canfield's scoring with a nine-yard run before the end of the third period, but the game essentially ended with the two killer turnovers earlier.

"A couple key turnovers like that helps ice the game," Pavlansky said.

Coach Pavlansky will continue to lean on his defense in the early season because his offense isn't exactly knocking the socks off of anyone. The usually vaunted Canfield rushing attack only netted 172 yards in Alliance led by Crawford and Clinkscale who had 60 each. The game remained 0-0 until the six-minute mark of the second stanza so Pavlansky will be preaching better first quarter performance to his kids in practice this week.

"We still need to start faster and the kids know that," Pavlansky said. "I am happy with what we did after the turnovers though. Good offenses capitalize in short yardage after turnovers."

Since the Cardinals' defense is so capable of controlling each contest, perhaps Pavlansky's offense has a little extra time to sort things out.

"When the defense plays at such a high level, you don't have to do too much," said Pavlansky.

Canfield's entire team will need to do a lot more this Friday if it is to capture another win against state power Chardon. The Cards went to Chardon last season and came away with an impressive 31-14 triumph. The 1-1 Hilltoppers will be more than happy to return the favor on Bob Dove Field.

"(Chardon) is a great team that will be ready for us," Pavlansky said.

The veteran coach is hoping that his team will be ready too.

"We need a great week of practice to work on starting faster on offense," he said. "If we don't get off to a faster start (against Chardon) we can be in trouble."



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