By joe catullo jr.
There was nothing flashy about Friday night’s game between Canfield and Struthers.
Instead, the fans received an old-fashioned, hard-nosed defensive battle and just 15 total pass plays. In the end, Struthers’ defense out-dueled the Cardinals’ defense, winning 13-0.
The biggest victory for the Wildcats (6-2, 1-2 All-American Conference, American Division) was slowing Canfield quarterback Kimu Kim, the area’s top rusher entering Week 8. Kim rushed 16 times for 77 yards. He also completed one pass on three attempts for three yards along with an interception.
“We just filled the gaps and watched him where he was going,” Anthony Farkas said. “Nothing special about that. We just filled the holes. We just talked about Kim, Aaron Jenkins and (Drew Rogers). Those were the top three guys that we were watching, making sure that they were the key guys.”
Canfield (2-6, 1-2) rushed for 122 yards overall. Add that with Kim’s passing yards, the Cardinals had 125 total yards.
“Hats off to coach Gary Holzel,” Struthers coach Curt Kuntz said. “He spent 10 years here (Canfield) and had a great run. I was fortunate enough to develop a great relationship with him and sneak him over here. All the credit in the world goes to him.”
Three key defensive plays helped decide the game for Struthers. First, on the game’s opening drive, the Cardinals drove deep into Struthers’ territory. They faced a fourth-and-6 situation, went for the first down and fell a couple of yards short.
“We got a couple of turnovers and a stop on fourth down that was big for us,” Kuntz said. “If there was a turning point, I would say the fourth-down stop.”
The other two plays were both second-half interceptions. The first came from Marcus Donnadio in the third quarter off of Kim. Farkas then intercepted Jenkins in the fourth quarter. It was Jenkins’ only passing attempt in the game.
“We were playing deep because we knew it was third-and-15,” Farkas said. “I keyed on (Rogers) because I knew they were going to pass it to him. I shifted over to play him, he threw the ball and I intercepted it.”
Offensively, the Wildcats were led by Luke Witkowski who rushed for 181 yards on 21 carries. The two touchdowns came from Gary Muntean’s 1-yard run in the second quarter and Marcus Pollifrone’s 5-yard rush in the fourth.
What hurt the Wildcats from scoring more were penalties. They committed nine for 50 yards, most of them coming in the first half.
“We relied a little bit on our defense until we cleaned up the penalties a little bit,” Kuntz said.
Struthers compiled 341 total yards (272 rushing), 15 first downs and turned the ball over once. Even when drives stalled due to penalties, the Wildcats’ punting game made the Cardinals start from deep in their territory.
“We just didn’t have enough other plays to make,” Canfield coach Mike Pavlansky said. “We had a couple of good drives, but just shot ourselves in the foot. In a game like this, you’ve got to make every drive count.”