The Cardinals capitalized on a couple of Tigers' mistakes to prevail.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANFIELD -- Mike Pavlansky doesn't like easy season openers and he knows as long as he keeps playing The Rayen School he'll never have one.
Thursday night, Pavlansky's Canfield High team took advantage of a couple of Rayen miscues and held off the Tigers for a 17-13 victory before a near sellout crowd.
"I can't say enough about the job that Brian Shaner and his staff has done in just four years at Rayen," Pavlansky said. "They are such a good football team and we knew it was going to be every bit of the battle that it was tonight."
Shaner had the same good things to say about Canfield, although he felt his team played well enough to win, but made some costly mistakes.
"I told our kids that we can't afford to beat ourselves and we made mistakes, but so did Canfield," Shaner said. "The difference was that we didn't take advantage of their mistakes."
Two quick scores
Both teams scored the first time they had possession in the opening quarter.
Rayen took the kickoff and on the arm of Sal Battles went 66 yards in eight plays to open the scoring.
Battles hit Tomaz Turner with strikes of 24 and 36 yards and then finally connected on fourth down from the 5-yard line to Ryan Wallace for the score.
Canfield took a lot less time to get its first touchdown as senior tailback Angelo Babbaro broke loose on the second play from scrimmage and raced 54 yards to the end zone.
But then it all came down to mistakes and who made them and who took advantage of them.
Canfield was intercepted once and lost two fumbles, while the Tigers suffered two interceptions, a blocked extra point and a blocked quick kick.
It was the blocked quick kick that really hurt the Tigers as it came at Rayen's own 13-yard line, and Battles kicked the ball right into his own blocker and Canfield recovered at the Tigers' 8.
Two plays later quarterback Sean Baker carried over from the 5 to put the Cardinals ahead.
Rayen came back to score early in the third quarter when Troy Rice returned a Canfield punt 71 yards for a touchdown, but Robert DeFoor's extra point was blocked.
Defenses get tough
Both defenses were tough in the final quarter, but the Cardinals, with the help of a 15-yard penalty, got within field goal range for Adam Jones and he split the uprights from 32 yards out.
Battles was intercepted on the next series by Kyle Banna, but the Tigers held and Adams just missed on a 43-yard field goal.
Rayen had to punt on the next series and Canfield started at its own 34. Trying to eat up as much of the clock as possible, the Cardinals took their time with the snap, but on second down the ball popped loose from quarterback Frank Ross and Stevie Slade recovered for Rayen at the Canfield 28.
But on first down, Battles again was picked off, this time by Damon Buente, who returned it from his own 10 to the Rayen 39 and from there the Cardinals were able to run out the clock.
Babbaro finished with 96 yards on 20 attempts and played only sparingly in the second half because of cramps.