Canfield defense grounds Aviators once again
By JEFF ZUPANIC
Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky believes defense wins championships. It’s also been a pretty good formula to beating Alliance.
For the second straight season, the Cardinals shut out the Aviators and walked off the field at Mount Union Stadium on Friday night with a 35-0 victory.
Pavlansky was thrilled to be 2-0 last season. He’s even more ecstatic about it this year given the overall youth of his team.
“Excited [being 2-0] and I thought we took some steps forward tonight. Obviously, so proud of our defense. Our defensive coaches and our defense did a tremendous job against a very explosive Alliance offense,” Pavlansky said.
The Aviators’ explosiveness has been negated the last two years by the Cardinals, which held Alliance to less than 150 total yards in each contest.
Canfield’s defense forced a pair of turnovers within a four-minute span after halftime. The first turnover of the game happened early in the second half when Canfield’s Colin Hritz picked off a pass and returned it 25 yards for a 21-0 lead with 10:34 left in the third quarter.
It wasn’t long before a second Aviators mistake gave the Cardinals another golden opportunity. Paris Bumgardner forced and recovered a fumble at the Alliance 9. Two plays later, Nick Crawford completed his hat trick with a 3-yard run to make it 28-0.
Canfield mustered just nine yards of offense to double its 14-0 halftime lead midway through the third quarter.
“That was pretty much the game right there. When you get a couple of key turnovers like that it really helps ice a game,” Pavlansky said. “Right there we got the pick-6 from Colin Hritz and then our offense took advantage of the fumble and put the game out of reach at that point. I thought we did a good job containing them tonight.”
Alliance (0-2) never got anything going offensively. Its longest rush was a 23-yard scramble by quarterback Brandon Alexander and Nashawn Gaffney hauled in a 10-yard pass for the only two plays that covered more than nine yards.
Alexander was 5 of 19 for 31 yards. The Aviators rushed for 63 yards on 29 attempts to finish under 100 yards for the game.
Canfield’s offense wasn’t a juggernaut by any stretch but the Cardinals were effective enough behind the running of Crawford, who had 60 yards on 13 carries. Senior quarterback Max Dawson added 27 yards on eight attempts.
Dawson, a three-year starter, shared time under center with senior Mehlyn Clinkscale, who transferred in from Florida. Clinkscale, listed at 6-1, 188 pounds, mostly guided the offense out of the “Wildcat formation” and finished with 60 yards on eight carries.
“Max has been a starter for us and has a lot of experience and Mehlyn moved here from Florida and our system is still kind of new to him,” said Pavlansky. “They give us a nice change of pace and both guys have accepted their roles.”