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Clutch field goal gives Cardinals opening night win

September 4, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Last year, it took the Canfield football team eight weeks before if finally lost its first game.

Last Friday night in Louisville, the Cardinals took their first step towards another long unbeaten stretch this season. Canfield shook off a slow start to put away the host Leopards 24-21 in the season opener. It marked the third straight season in which the Cardinals upended the Louisville kids. This win did not come without its share of drama for the Canfield boys.

The two powerful offenses combined for 42 points in the first half. Seemingly, this contest was on its way to one of those wild 70-63 triple overtime finishes. In the second half, however, Canfield's defense took center stage holding the host team scoreless. The Cardinals' offense flew south as well though setting the stage for an improbable ending to begin the year.

With the score tied late in the fourth quarter, Canfield held the ball hoping to score the game-winning points in walk off fashion. That wish came true. Canfield kicker Jonathan Schmidt kicked a 21-yard field goal with five seconds left on the clock to boot the Cardinals to their opening win. Making that field goal even more impressive was the fact that Schmidt is more popular on the soccer pitch than he is on the gridiron.

"Schmidt never kicked before," said Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky on Saturday morning. "He came over from the soccer team. It was a huge kick in his first game. We are thankful that the soccer team can send us such good players."

That fateful field goal may never had happened if it wasn't for a tremendous pass play just moments before. All game long, the Cardinals were running a run/pass option formation that a majority of the time concluded with them running the football. At this time, junior quarterback Ethan Fletcher kept the ball instead of handing it off as he spotted senior Nick Crawford streaking open down the field. Fletcher flung the ball to Crawford who did the rest for 71 yards.

"We were running a lot out of that same formation," said Pavlansky. "On that play, Ethan pulled the ball back and found Crawford up the sidelines. He made a great pass."

Crawford was great all game ending it with a game high 165 yards rushing on 16 carries. He also accounted for three rushing touchdowns plus that long game altering reception.

Louisville actually looked to be in command of the contest from the outset. The hosts hit Canfield with 14 points early on touchdowns of 39 and 71 yards. They then held a 21-7 halftime advantage. Costly penalties and one lost fumble allowed the Cardinals to recapture some momentum. Pavlansky's defense then did the rest in the second half.

"We had some first game jitters (early in the game)," Pavlansky said. "We got behind on two big plays. Our kids kept believing and our defense kept fighting. The second half was a slugfest. We held (Louisville) twice on first and goal from the five yard line. It ended up being a great start (to the season) for our kids."

Although the game ended way better than it began for the veteran coach's club, there are many ways it can improve before Week 2's tussle with Dover this Friday.

"We're far from a great team," said Pavlansky. "We started three new starters in our secondary. It's way easy to get out of position against a great passing team. We must get better than we were in the first half (at Louisville). Dover is very well coached and hard to prepare for."

One thing that won't be hard for the Cardinals is receiving the backing of the Canfield community as they play their first home game of the year at Bob Dove Field. Pavlansky is anxiously looking forward to it.

"The home opener is always exciting," he said. "It'll be alumni night and we will be honoring our great 2009 league champion team that won two playoff games. It'll be a special night."

 
 

 

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