PREP FOOTBALL Quiet Canfield is 'noisy' in game
A strong defense has led the Cardinals to two wins entering the Alliance test.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANFIELD -- They say football teams often take on the personality of their coaches. If true, someone forgot to tell Canfield.
Compared to their ever-upbeat coach, Mike Pavlansky, this year's Cardinals are as lively as decaffeinated coffee. Their practices often lack intensity, their most experienced player -- two-year captain Kyle Banna -- is a self-confessed "quiet kid" and, before games, the Cardinals drive their coaches nuts with their quiet approach.
"We sometimes joke with the coaches that it's silent before the storm," said senior Angelo Babbaro. "But we've been that way since we were freshmen. We're just quiet before games."
During games, well that's a different story. The defense, led by linebacker Kyle Banna and seven other returning starters, has stifled Rayen and Canton South over the past two games. Combined with an improving offense, the Cardinals seem ready for their biggest test of the season when they play host to Alliance on Friday.
Canfield won last year
The Aviators, now in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference, lost just one league game en route to the Metro Athletic Conference title last season. That game? A 14-2 loss to Canfield in which the Cardinals used a blitz-heavy approach to contain the explosive Alliance skill players.
"Our coaches just had a great scouting report," said Babbaro. "We knew what play was coming before they ran it."
The Cardinals also did something few teams could do last season: contain running back Kendell Davis. Davis graduated, but dangerous quarterback Charles Babb returns. His main target, Troy Pascley, has already verbally committed to Louisville and his line has the type of size that creates matchup problems for even the best teams.
"They're probably the biggest team up front that's on our schedule," said Banna. "We're used to playing quicker teams."
Banna prefers defense
Banna, a three-year starter at linebacker, prefers playing offense -- "I love running people over at fullback," he said -- but he spends more time on defense. And if you're wondering about his importance to the team, consider this: You can count on one hand the number of Cardinals who have been voted captain as a junior and a senior (and you'd still have fingers left over).
"He's a strong student in the classroom and he's a student of the game," said Pavlansky. "He leads the defense with his actions. He's our fullback, our long snapper. You just can't get him off the field."
Babbaro, a three-year starter at tailback, prefers playing defense, but he spends more time on offense. He's Canfield's fastest player -- he holds the school record in the 100-meter dash -- and he's also a key contributor on special teams.
"I tried playing every play in our first game and I ended up with an IV in my arm in the third quarter," he said.
"Last week I focused more on offense and took some plays off when we were on defense."
Babbaro added about 15 pounds of muscle since last season, Pavlansky said, and used track season as a way of improving his speed for football.
"That's basically the only reason I ran track," he said.
"Our coach, Mary Domitrovich, patterned my workouts around getting faster and stronger. I didn't do any of that distance stuff."
With quarterbacks Frank Ross and Sean Baker still learning -- one of Canfield's biggest losses from last year was the graduation of two-year starter Jamie McNally -- Canfield will continue to rely on its defense and the running game to set the tone.
So far, so good.
"We still need to get a lot better, but I think Alliance and Chaney [next week] will help us get ready for the league season," Pavlanksy said.
"If we play well enough, we should be in both ball games."