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Canfield football team a lot younger than in seasons past

August 21, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Canfield's football team will have a lot to live up to this season if it wants to emulate the success it had in 2018.

A year ago, the Cardinals ripped off seven straight victories before losing their first game. They didn't lose again until the third round of the playoffs when Kenston clobbered them 33-7. Moving that far in the tournament in 2019 may be a difficult chore for the Cardinals because the number of seniors is down from recent seasons. Only 14 twelfth-graders will suit up leaving head coach Mike Pavlansky with a huge void in the leadership department.

"We've lost a lot of great seniors over the past two years," said Pavlansky. "We're a lot younger (this year). We need some experience."

Pavlansky will find most of his experienced players along the interior lines, which suits the old school coach just fine. Senior nose guard Anthony Dalesio will anchor the defensive front seven. Fellow senior Richie Hofus, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 240 pounds, will present a presence at defensive end and left tackle. Gavin Tareshawty is a stocky center who is also a capable returning starter. Canfield's coach likes the size across both interiors.

"The kids are bigger and stronger," Pavlansky said. "They're working hard and I'm happy with their effort."

Four other returning starters the Cardinals' will count upon are senior linebacker Nick Crawford, who moves up from safety this season, senior inside linebacker Seth Hull and juniors Ethan Fletcher and Chris Sammarone. Fletcher is a defensive back and Sammarone is a strong 200 pound linebacker. All of the above mentioned returnees will play an important role in the development of the Canfield clan over the first few weeks of the campaign.

"They'll need to carry us early on," Pavlansky said.

Carrying Canfield at the quarterback position will be a pair of players with contrasting styles of play. Fletcher will step aside from his defensive chores to be one of the two QB's. Junior Jackson Crist will be the other. Crist is more of a passer while Fletcher depends more on his legs. There is no guarantee that one of these youngsters will take the reins completely. In fact, Pavlansky isn't shy in announcing that both signal callers will play prominent roles behind center.

"We have two junior quarterbacks with different styles," said Pavlansky. "We've played two quarterbacks before so I'm not against playing them both. We'll figure it out throughout our scrimmages then let it play out during the season."

The Cardinals will also be trying to figure out how to improve the depth at wide receiver, tight end and cornerback. Those are three spots that Pavlansky cited as an "area of weakness."

There are some other concerns that the coach has as well as the season quickly approaches.

"We need to get better in a hurry," he said. "We need to improve overall in our technique and assignment."

There are a couple of glaring changes on Canfield's season schedule in 2019. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cardinals won't have a conference affiliation so they will be playing an independent schedule. Six of the teams on Canfield's slate were playoff participants a year ago and that doesn't include opening opponent Louisville who just missed the postseason last year at 6-4. That kickoff game takes place on the road on Aug. 30. Games against unfamiliar foes McKinley Tech of Washington DC, Cleveland JFK and Medina Highland will also be staged. The final two contests will be road tilts at yearly rivals Howland and Boardman. The Cards clipped the Spartans 21-14 at home last September and hammered Howland 53-7 four weeks later. One adversary Canfield won't encounter this fall is crosstown nemesis Poland who is strangely absent from the ledger. Pavlansky isn't concerned that his boys won't be battling the Bulldogs. Actually, he takes a very Pavlanskyian approach to this year's opponents.

"We need to worry about us," he said. "We can't worry about who's across from us. It'll be different. We'll try to find out as much as we can about these other teams. It'll be a grind."

If this season long grind ends with Canfield's third straight season in the playoffs it'll be because the younger Redbirds grow up soon and the older ones provide the leadership that was once offered to them. Pavlansky concurs with that sentiment.

"If we do that, we'll have a fighting chance on Friday nights," he said.



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