Canfield lays it all on the line
Canfield linemen clear the way
By Dan Hiner
Offensive lines never get enough credit. They don’t make big plays, score touchdowns or end up in highlights. But the Canfield offensive linemen have been unsung heroes throughout the Cardinals’ unbeaten season.
Some linemen might be jealous of their teammates receiving accolades, but the Canfield line doesn’t need the credit.
“Offensive line is a very selfless position, but when it comes down to it, it’s very much a team sport,” right tackle Jarod Tincher said. “Everything needs to be firing on all cylinders for us to win. It’s not just one unit, it has to be the whole team.”
The Cardinals lost key pieces on the line but head coach Mike Pavlansky wasn’t concerned. The only returning starters on the offensive line entering 2017 were Mike Dudash, Anthony Carano and tight end Tyler Dobrindt. Center Joe Haniford, left guard Dan Kapalko and Tincher were backups last season.
The offensive line dealt with injuries and didn’t settle in until the third week of the season. Three players took snaps at center and others had to move to different positions along the line.
Carano — the smallest lineman at 5-foot-9 and 189 pounds — has played three different positions along the line. He was supposed to be the starting center, but eventually moved to left guard. He started playing right guard during Week 1 against Louisville and has been there ever since.
“I used to be 195 [pounds], and this year I cut [down] and got a lot stronger,” Carano said. “I’ve always been on the line. Just good technique and stay low.”
The changes up front didn’t bother Pavlansky, but he said every coach needs the offensive line to build chemistry early in the year to have success.
“The concern when you’re starting out is any team — whether it be a throwing team or a running team — the offensive line has to gel to have success,” Pavlansky said. “The only thing we were concerned about weren’t the people up there, but how well they would work together early in the year. And they certainly did a tremendous job. They’ve done nothing but get better during the year.”
Canfield’s line opened holes for dual-threat quarterback Vinny Fiorenza and running back Paul Breinz all season as the Cardinals have rolled to a 12-0 record.
Their next challenge will come against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary tonight at Reilly Stadium in Salem.
The Irish (9-3) won last week 28-7 over Tallmadge, and held the Blue Devils to 182 rushing yards.
“One of the things you can’t teach is size, but you can teach mental toughness, your physicality,” Tincher said. “I think no matter what team we play, no matter how small or big, when we come out, we are the most physical unit on the field.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year. That’s why we’ve been successful and that’s why we make our backs look good too.”
Canfield’s only previous regional final win came in 2005. The Cardinals were state runner-ups after losing to Tallmadge 17-14.
“It’s definitely a big factor for us,” Kapalko said. “I was on the field [last week] and all I could think about was making history. It’s definitely a huge part in our pride and the pride in the offensive line to say, ‘We’re only the second team to make regional finals in our history.’ And that even goes farther, we want to make our own history. We want to take it to the next step.”