to meet in Ravenna
By Tom Williams
Bright sunshine and a 51-degree temperature greeted the Canfield High School football team Wednesday before practice for Friday’s playoff game against Akron East.
It’s a beautiful day scenario every other Mahoning County team would accept if only they were still playing.
Cardinals senior quarterback Max Dawson is looking ahead with another weather-related dream.
“We can’t wait until it’s dark at the beginning of practice and cold outside, because that is what we are looking forward to,” Dawson said. “Our goal is to play [for a] state championship in the snow.”
For the second straight season, the Cardinals (10-1) have advanced to Week 12. They’ll play Akron East (9-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Ravenna’s Gilcrest Field.
Top-seeded Canfield advanced with last Friday’s 35-10 win over Marlington. Fifth-seeded Akron East went to Chardon for a 39-28 victory.
Akron East reminds Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky of Youngstown’s East, which spoiled the Cardinals’ hopes for a second straight unbeaten season with a 12-7 win in Week 8.
“Same formations, same defensive philosophies,” Pavlansky said. “They got tremendous talent on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a big challenge.
“They’ve got about four or five guys on offense that they can get the ball to and cause a lot of damage,” said Pavlansky, who has a team in the playoffs for the 11th time. “Defensively, they are as good as advertised — big guys up front who just want to stop the run and force you into a passing game.
“We have to figure out a way to sustain a run game.”
Senior running back Mehlyn Clinkscale, who moved to Canfield in January, is one of the players the Dragons will try to contain. Clinkscale broke loose for touchdown runs of 41 and 61 yards against Marlington. He also returned an interception 97 yards for the clinching score.
”We love Mehlyn,” Dawson said, adding that his perfect role is in the wildcat “running the ball.”
Clinskscale sometimes lines up at wideout.
“Hopefully, we’ll throw it to him more,” Dawson said.
Clinkscale became a starter at safety after the Cards lost Matt Zaremski to a leg injury in October.
For the first time in school history, Canfield has consecutive 10-win seasons.
Dawson said the loss to the Golden Bears provided a needed “wake-up call.
“We thought we were going to win all the time, that we would never lose,” Dawson said. “It didn’t matter if we would slack off for a play, we’d be all right. That [defeat] showed us you can’t be lazy, you’ve got to make sure to give every play 100 percent.”
Senior linebacker Colin Hritz said that like the Golden Bears, Akron East quarterback Kyre Williams “likes to run the ball a lot so we’re going to have to keep [him] contained.
“They have good backs, good [players at] skill positions [and] athletic [line players].”
Williams has passed for 960 yards and rushed for 1,260.
Pavlansky said two of Akron East’s victories were especially impressive.
“They beat two Federal League teams,” Pavlansky said. “In the first game, they are down 13-0 to Massillon Jackson, and hung in there to come back and win 14-13.
Two weeks later, they beat North Canton Hoover 34-17,” Pavlansky said. “Those are eye-opening wins.”
The Dragons’ losses were to Div. II Dover (24-20) and Div. IV Akron Buchtel (28-12).
Last year, the Cardinals defeated Aurora (23-0) and NDCL (22-7) before losing to Akron SVSM 13-10 in the Division III, Region 9 championship game.
“We need to play every game like it’s our last,” Hritz said. “You can’t take anyone for granted.
“At the beginning of the season, we knew most people weren’t expecting us to be as good as we are. But we’ve decided to prove them wrong.”