Hiner: Cardinals have been waiting for a chance at Akron SV-SM

After starting the playoffs with 18 teams, just two Valley high school football teams remain as Week 13 approaches.

Canfield hasn’t won a regional final since 2005.

Cardinals’ head coach Mike Pavlansky said his players understand the history of the Canfield football program. He said his players are aware of the 2005 team, and are told stories of the Cardinals of the 1950s.

Now the Cardinals have another shot at reaching the state semifinals and making history of their own.

After talking to the players, the team is determined to advance past St. Vincent-St. Mary. This is personal for them.

Multiple players said they made a list of teams that beat them over the past couple seasons. The players said they beat everyone except the Irish, and were glad they are now standing in their way in tonight’s Division III, Region 9 final.

The Irish beat Canfield 48-29 in the first round of the 2015 playoffs.

Pavlansky said the Cardinals need to focus on the task at hand because the Irish will be their toughest opponent all year, and they can’t think ahead.

But I’m glad a team has a chip on its shoulder this postseason.

Teams usually use a “week-by-week” mentality after Week 10.

The Irish are the more experienced team in the playoffs — this is their 22nd appearance. But the extra fire could help the Cardinals as they play a bigger, potentially more athletic team.

The players and coaches said the Cardinals are sticking to their normal game plan. Quarterback Vinny Fiorenza and the running backs will run the ball, and the Cardinals will open the field in the passing game if needed.

South Range should get credit as well. After all, the last time the Raiders made the state semifinals was also back in 2005.

The Raiders lost to Garfield 31-21 in the first round of the playoffs last season.

South Range is taking the playoffs one game at a time, and there’s nothing wrong with that perspective.

That’s how head coach Dan Yeagley’s teams have always operated.

Why break from tendencies now, right?

Run your offense the way you have all season, play strong defense and play fundamentally sound football.

Both teams should get credit for making it this far, but personally, I grew up cheering for the team with the “us against the world” perspective.

Either way, as Valley residents, we should support these two teams as much as possible. They’re both smaller schools which don’t come to mind when thinking of state football powerhouses.

Neither team has the playoff history of a St. Ignatius, Warren Harding or Cardinal Mooney.

They’re the underdog stories we grow to love as sports fans. Both team are chasing their first state titles.

So if they overcome their respective hurdles tonight, we should sit back, support the players and watch history unfold.

Dan Hiner is a sports writer for The Vindicator. Email him a dhiner@vindy.com

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