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Canfield is top seed in Div. III state playoffs

November 7, 2018
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

For the second straight season, the Canfield football team entered its region of the Division III state playoffs as the top seed.

Also for the second straight season, the Cardinals dominated their first round game. Last year Canfield shutout Aurora 23-0 in Week 11. This year's game wasn't quite the whitewash but it was every bit as impressive. The Cardinals Mehlyn Clinkscale scored on three long plays to help his team manhandle visiting Marlington at Bob Dove Field. The 35-10 blowout enabled the Canfield kids to confidently move into the regional semifinals where they will face 9-2 Akron East.

"It was a really good win against a really good team," said Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky. "I'm happy for the kids. Now we have to get focused and move on to this week."

This week's game against high-powered East probably won't be as comfortable as the one against Marlington. It'll become easier, though, if Clinkscale plays as wonderfully as he did last Friday night. The speedy 6-foot senior started the night with a 41-yard touchdown run halfway into the first quarter to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead. Four minutes later, he took a quick pitch, burst through the initial point of the defense and dashed 61-yards for his second touchdown. He ended the night with 185 yards rushing. It was what Clinkscale did on the other side of the ball later in the game that sealed the deal for the Cardinals.

Marlington would score 10 points before halftime to pull to within four points of a tie. The Cardinals answered with a 1-yard Max Dawson sneak for the only score of the third period. Down 21-10, the Dukes had the ball early in the fourth quarter and looked as if they were about to move the ball for a lead-slicing touchdown. The visitors were deep inside Canfield territory when Clinkscale struck. He stepped in front of a Dukes' pass, picked off the ball and flew 97-yards for a touchdown. That pick-6 was proof once again just how much of weapon Canfield acquired when Clinkscale transferred to the school this summer.

"(Clinkscale) had a couple of huge plays," Pavlansky said. "That interception really turned the momentum. He has the capability of taking over the game and fortunately he did that on Friday night."

One way the Cardinals can take over the game against the Dragons is by feeding Clinkscale and whoever else wants to tote the rock over and over again.

"We'll need to control the football to keep them off the field and control their speed," Pavlansky said. "(Akron East) is the best team by far we've faced all year. They have great power and speed combination. They are as big as Boardman and as fast as Youngstown East."

The fifth-seeded Akron group comes into Friday's match at Ravenna High School with a 9-2 record. It beat up Chardon 39-28 in its first round matchup. Coach Pav feels East's ledger is misleading because of a bad game it had in the regular season finale.

"They stubbed their toe against (Akron) Buchtel," Pavlansky said. "Other than that they beat two Federal League teams."

One area where Canfield's coach feels his team can swing the balance of this game is on special teams.

"We have an advantage in the kicking game," said Pavlansky. "Our ability to flip field position will be important."

The biggest concern for the Cardinals' coaching staff is combatting the Dragons' dazzling speed. Playing slower hurt Canfield when it lost to Youngstown East earlier this season, so Pavlansky will study that tape a ton to see how things can change. Unfortunately, cramming for this Friday's test may not be enough to help Canfield's defense.

"Experiencing (Youngstown) East will help, but you can't copy the speed (Akron East) has on film," said Pavlansky. "We'll need to play sound football defensively if we want to win."



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