Canfield took a 14-0 lead en route to a 31-14 win over the Tigers.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
CANFIELD -- The start of the 2002 high school football season was anything but normal for the Canfield Cardinals.
Starting a day early on Thursday evening, Canfield and visiting Rayen School were forced to endure a 65-minute delay because of severe weather shortly before kickoff.
"O Canada" then nearly replaced the national anthem before officials decided on a spontaneous "Pledge of Allegiance" to conclude pre-game ceremonies.
But once the game began, Canfield responded in a more typical fashion, by scoring 14 quick points and finishing with a 31-14 victory over the Tigers.
"Those two quick scores were very important for us to get out of the gate," said Canfield coach Mike Pavlansky. "After waiting in the locker room all that time, scoring like that only added to the excitement of the players, and that was a positive."
The Cardinals played the game without several starters, including quarterback Leo Sorice, due to disciplinary suspensions.
Sophomore Jamie McNally got the starting call at QB and responded by leading the Cardinals 65 yards to a score in the opening minutes of play.
McNally threw a 52-yard completion to Jeff Miler that set up a 1-yard run by Bill DeCola.
The young signal caller completed 4-of-5 passes for 114 yards in his first varsity start.
"We weren't concerned at all about starting the sophomore [McNally]," Pavlansky said. "We knew we had a great senior class around him and that was only going to help him out."
When Canfield scored minutes later after Rayen fumbled the ensuing kickoff, McNally's job became a whole lot easier.
"Those scores took a lot of pressure off [McNally]," Pavlansky said. "Rayen's a good football team and we were able to settle in to our game after that."
DeCola scored the second touchdown after a 38-yard drive that featured the running of senior Tim Dewberry.
Dewberry gained 25 yards on that drive and finished the game as the team's leading rusher with 59 yards on nine carries.
Dewberry scored Canfield's third touchdown on a 5-yard run 19 seconds before halftime, and the Cardinals had the game in control.
Rayen made a strong second half bid with an offensive show that featured a wide-open passing attack.
Rayen quarterback Tahir Page showed flashes of excitement in the first half when he completed 6-of-9 passes for 59 yards and scrambled effectively to avoid trouble.
Page finally got his team on the board in the third quarter when he found Eric Brown in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown.
Rayen had several more opportunities in the third quarter, but the Tigers were hampered by mistakes and turnovers.
"We certainly had our chances," Rayen coach Pete Lymber said. "Our offense did a great job and our defense was there but just seemed to miss too many tackles."
Rayen totaled 224 yards of offense and made 16 first downs.
After Rayen's score, Canfield put the game away when tailback Tom Rogers threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jake Wargacki, and kicker Matt Rothbauer made a 35-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Rayen's Phil Morgan added the Tigers' final tally on a 4-yard scamper.
Page finished with 13 completions in 22 attempts for 147 yards to lead the Tigers.