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Teamwork propels 3 local teams to state title games

Our Mahoning Valley is well-known statewide as a high school football powerhouse, and this weekend we will have yet another opportunity to showcase that fact as three local teams head to Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium to compete in the Ohio High School Athletic Association football tournament state title games.

Incredibly, the Valley has sent at least one team to the finals in 33 of the 51 years of the tournament, and overall, area schools own a 21-22 record in title games.

This year will be the third time in the 51-year history of the OHSAA football tournament the Valley will be represented by three teams, and we couldn’t be more proud of the players, coaches, parents and fans of the South Range Raiders, Canfield Cardinals and Warren John F. Kennedy Eagles.

Each team is to be commended for this amazing journey.

Truly, who could have thought when these teams began drills in the mid-summer scorching heat that each still would be playing in early December?

South Range (15-0) is set to kick off against Ironton (15-0) at 10:30 a.m. Friday, seeking the Division V state title.

A few hours later, Canfield (13-1) and Bloom-Carroll (14-1) will play at 3 p.m. for the Division III title.

One day later, JFK (13-1) will play New Bremen (12-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday for the Division VII title.

Adding to the excitement is the fact that this will be South Range’s first-ever state final appearance after falling in the semifinals in 2005 and 2017. The team will have its work cut out for it.

The Raiders’ opponent, Ironton, advanced to this year’s playoffs for the 38th time, including 10 state championship appearances, winning two of them.

Canfield this year is making its second state final appearance, seeking its first-ever state title.

And in Division VII, Warren JFK and its opponent, New Bremen, know each other well. They face off in the state title game for the second time in three years. JFK holds two state titles, from 1991 and 2016.

Undeniably, to reach this point in the season, the players on each of these organizations truly exemplify the meaning of the word “team.” Indeed, team sports are dependent on the strength of every player’s skills and hard work. That hard work, evidenced by the blood and sweat of each player, coupled with the time and knowledge of each coach, has propelled them to this level of success.

But success as an excellent, well-prepared football team is only part of the equation.

The rest of it comes with dedication, commitment and heart. The Eagles, the Raiders and the Cardinals certainly have proven each of these qualities.

It also comes with the love and support of family and friends who realize the importance of the sacrifices each player has made throughout the season and, truly, for many years leading up to this point.

We know the players will relish this feeling. Now we urge all local football fans to do the same. It doesn’t happen every day.

We wish all the best to each of these teams. Of course, we especially hope for success for the seniors who soon will be bidding farewell to high school. We can only hope their memories will include a senior year varsity football state championship.

But if that’s not meant to be, the excitement and memories of this season and long championship run should leave them proud.

Win or lose, congratulations to the JFK Eagles, the Canfield Cardinals and the South Range Raiders!

editorial@vindy.com

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