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Cards put out Dragon’s flame with 35-0 win

October 10, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Coming off an emotional win over rival Boardman in Week 6, it would have been understandable if the undefeated Canfield football team looked flat against Niles in Week 7.

Canfield's defenders, however, would never let any letdown happen. The Cardinal defense, led by Jake Whittenberger, forced five Niles turnovers in a 35-0 road whitewash victory. The win was Canfield's seventh in a row this year, 18th in a row dating back to 2016 and first in the All American Conference's Red Tier this year.

"You hope to play as well as we did," said Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky following the triumph. "You always hope to win the turnover battle no matter what level of football you're playing. We won the (turnover) battle in six games this year. You then want to turn those turnovers into touchdowns."

The Red Dragons lost the ball on each of their first three possessions and, much to their coach's wishes, the Cardinals turned those miscues into scores. Whittenberger halted the Dragons' first drive in Canfield territory with an interception. He would later add one of Canfield's four fumble recoveries. After that pick off, the Cardinals marched nearly 80-yards on 14 plays sucking up nearly seven minutes of game time. That drive culminated with a one-yard Nick Crawford touchdown plunge and a 7-0 Canfield lead.

On Niles' next drive, a fumble set the visitors up deep inside Dragon territory. Crawford would carry the ball down to Niles' two-yard line then quarterback Max Dawson dumped a short touchdown pass to Joe Marzano extending Canfield's lead to 14-0.

The second stanza started with Canfield's Mehlyn Clinkscale scoring from 11-yards away making it 21-0. A Dawson to Crawford 44-yard touchdown connection would make it a moot point before halftime. Dawson would end the scoring with a 25-yard touchdown run in the second half. Jad Jadallah would be perfect on all five of his extra point attempts for the Cardinals. Pavlansky's boys would bury their overmatched opponent with 375 yards of total offense, which impressed the longtime leader.

"Offensively we executed really well," he said. "We were well balanced with the run and pass."

Crawford led the Canfield rushing attack with 104 yards. Dawson danced for 89 while Clinkscale collected 65 on just five carries. Dawson would also deliver two touchdown passes and go 6 for 9 passing for 79 yards. More importantly, the senior quarterback became familiar with some other receivers. Superstar senior wideout Matt Zaremski sadly played his final game of his high school career last week due to sustaining a season-ending injury. Finding someone to take over Zaremski's playmaking role is a ridiculous request.

"We'll miss Matt a lot," said Pavlansky. "We have guys capable of stepping up, but he'll be tough to replace. Max got used to his receivers (on Friday night), but we targeted Matt a lot so we need to find new targets and spray the ball around to other guys."

The 35 points Canfield tallied against Niles may not even be enough this week when it travels to Youngstown East. East carries a 5-2 record into the clash with Canfield. Included in that lofty mark is a 3-0 record inside the Red Tier and a 10-0 shutout of 5-2 Poland a week ago. A win this week by the Bears will incredibly clinch an AAC crown.

"This could be a league championship game for (East)," said Pavlansky. "We have to match that championship intensity. They'll be ready for us."

East can light up a scoreboard with a bevy of playmakers, but as witnessed by what they did against the potent Poland offense, can smother you defensively too.

"(East) is a very good all around team," Pavlansky said. "(Head coach) Brian Marrow has done a great job. They are fast and physical. This is the best speed team we've seen this year and they match that speed with physicality up front."

Canfield's coach noted that the Bears actually could have beaten the Bulldogs by an even larger margin if a couple of touchdowns weren't called back due to penalties. That's one of the reasons why he fears this Friday's showdown with the Youngstown kids more than any other time during his coaching tenure.

"If (East) wins it certainly won't be an upset," said Pavlansky.



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