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Cards show determination in 34-7 win over rival Poland

October 31, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

The 75th game between the Canfield and Poland football teams last Friday night at Bob Dove Field was supposed to be the final showdown between the pair of rivals.

Poland was one of an octet of schools that was forming the new Northeast 8 conference for 2019. Its departure from the All American Conference was allegedly going to end the relationship with the Canfield club. Late Friday morning, however, administrators from the two schools got together to sign an agreement that would rekindle the rivalry in two years. The Cardinals and Bulldogs will skip the 2019 season then get together on the gridiron once again in Week 1 of 2020. They will then play in Week 3 in subsequent seasons. Judging by the way the Cardinals have treated their Bulldog brethren lately, it's believable if the Poland side would have preferred to have that signed contract ripped in half.

Canfield scored five times in the first three periods and played ferocious defense the entire game as it plastered Poland 34-7 in the season finale. This win marked four straight for the Cardinals over their nemesis in the series. It also earned them the number 1 seed in this weekend's Division III, Region 9 state playoffs. The Cardinals finished the regular season with a record of 9-1 and 19 regular season wins out of its past 20. Poland, meanwhile, has been eliminated from playoff contention much to the joy of the Canfield program.

Article Photos

Photos by Cindy DeRose, Town Crier

Canfield senior Mehlyn Clinkscale takes the hand-off from Canfield senior quarterback Max Dawson. Poland defenders senior Todd Collin and senior Scott Campbell move in to attempt to stop a determined Cardinal offense.

"Anytime you win a rivalry game it makes for a happy morning after," said Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky on the Saturday after the victory. "We didn't know (that the rivalry would continue) until the news came out on Friday so the message to our kids didn't change. We knew what we had to do (on Friday night) and we did it."

For much of this season Pavlansky has been peeved with how his team has started contests. He warned that a slow start in late season games could lead to a quick exit from the playoffs. That's why the coach was so eager to discuss the Cardinals' opening drive versus Poland. Canfield methodically marched the ball down the field chewing up half of the first period before Nick Crawford crawled into the end zone from 1-yard away. It was the type of long, ball hogging trip down the field that makes a throwback coach like Pavlansky elated.

"That first drive was the best of the year for us," said Pavlansky. "The kids were prepared. They understood all of their assignments and the blocking (the entire drive) was superb."

In fact, the blocking by Canfield's offensive line may have been the best that it's been all year as well. Canfield's kids up front bulldozed the Bulldogs en route to a 260-yard rushing night. Crawford would score twice more and lead the team with 65 yards on the ground. Mehlyn Clinkscale had a 54-yard touchdown run to give Canfield its second score of the game. Quarterback Max Dawson would toss in a 2-yard touchdown pass to Colin Hritz right before halftime to give the Cardinals a 27-0 lead at intermission. That pass was a thing of beauty, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to Canfield's coach the prettiest thing come playoff time is watching his guys run through defenses.

"We always try to run the football," said Pavlansky. "We were successful with that (against Poland). We rely on the guys up front and they did a great job."

Pavlansky's gang also did a great job accumulating 19 wins over two years. The only blemish to back-to-back perfect regular seasons was a shocking 12-7 loss to Youngstown East in Week 8. The Redbirds' ability to spread their talents around to other athletic teams is one of the reasons why Coach Pavlansky thinks they are so successful once they hit the gridiron.

"Our kids compete all year in other sports so it's a year long effort to win those games," said Pavlansky. "That makes the kids prepared when it's time to start (football practice). They are a very team oriented group and a really great group of athletes. That's a great combination."

The Cards will try to remain great when they host 8-2 Marlington this Friday in round one of the tournament. The Dukes won eight games in a row between an opening night and season closing loss. Interestingly, those two defeats were at the hands of two schools Canfield blew out this season. Marlington lost to Poland in Week 1 and Alliance in Week 10. Canfield beat that duo by a combined score of 69-7. If they run the ball versus the Dukes as dominantly as they did against the Bulldogs, then the Cardinals may have little trouble mashing Marlington as well.



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