Canfield tops Bloom-Carroll in Division III championship
CANTON — For the first time in school history, the Canfield Cardinals are state champions.
With a ferocious defense that only allowed Bloom-Carroll — a team that had rushed for 4,231 yards this season — to rush for 69 yards and another otherworldly performance from senior quarterback Broc Lowry, the Cardinals thrashed the Bulldogs 35-14 to capture the Division III state title Friday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
“My goodness, I’m just so proud of our team,” Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky said. “They set a goal at the beginning of the year to win a regional title. It was never to beat Chardon, but it was to win a regional championship, and once that was accomplished, they set their goal a little bit further down the road.”
The Cardinals (14-1) utterly dominated the first half of play, scoring on drives that ate up over five and seven minutes of clock, while also limiting the Bulldogs (14-2) to three drives that never registered more than five plays. But, with just under three minutes left in the half, the Bulldogs stitched together their best drive of the game.
After Lowry scored the second of his five total touchdowns — the star quarterback finished with 285 total yards and scored passing, receiving and rushing touchdowns — Bishop-Carroll started at its own 36-yard line and put together a drive that spanned 64 yards on 13 plays and ate up 2:47 of the clock.
Sophomore quarterback Ethan Thanthanavong capped it off by finding Brodyn Bishop from three yards out to cut Canfield’s lead to seven points, 14-7.
It was exactly what Pavlansky and the Cardinals didn’t want to see, but they used it as motivation.
“Bloom-Carroll had all the momentum in the world scoring at the end of the half, and we came in and talked about in any football game, let alone a championship game, you are going to have to overcome adversity,” Pavlansky said. “I think our guys did that, and I thought we played championship football on offense, on defense and on special teams in the second half.”
Outside of that drive, that’s exactly what the Cardinals did.
They scored on five of their eight drives, with their eighth drive ending the game. They tallied 366 total yards of offense and carried the ball 44 times for 202 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Defensively, the Cardinals were just as strong. They plugged holes, stuck to their assignments, and limited leading rusher Dylan Armentrout, who entered Friday’s contest with 2,115 yards, to just 61 total yards.
“They were just really physical, and they just knew what we were doing,” Bloom-Carroll running back Andrew Marshall said of what Canfield was able to do to stop their potent rushing attack. “They knew when we were running, they knew who it was going to and they just beat us off the ball and controlled the line of scrimmage.”
Turnovers were key in the second half, as the Cardinals took away any BC momentum by forcing a fumble and picking off a pass in key situations.
With 7:30 remaining in the third quarter, the Cardinals recovered a Bloom-Carroll fumble around midfield. Nine plays later, Lowry turned it into a two-yard rushing touchdown.
Then, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the Bulldogs on Canfield’s 27-yard line, the Cardinals picked up back-to-back sacks before Caden Kohout picked off Thanthanavong and returned it to Bloom-Carroll’s 30-yard line.
Again, the Cardinals turned it into points as Lowry found Dom Marzano with a nine-yard jump pass to land the knockout blow.
“After the turnovers, you could kind of tell that they were hanging their heads offensively with not being able to move the ball and do what they’ve been doing all year,” Lowry said. “So yeah, it was definitely a big momentum switcher for us.”
While the Canfield defense came up with big stops in key situations, the Cardinals offense converted on key downs throughout the game.
The Cardinals picked up first downs on nine of their 12 third down situations and converted their only fourth down attempt, too. That fourth down conversion came in a fourth-and-7 situation with just under five minutes left in the second quarter. Lowry hit wider receiver Jack Davis for a 15-yard gain to keep the drive going.
The Indiana-bound quarterback later scored on a three-yard run.
“Those were huge, and we’ve been doing it all year,” Lowry said. “Just credit to my offensive line and my receivers, too, for giving me protection, and on run plays just finding open holes and stuff like that. Just running behind those big guys. Jack Davis made a great catch in there. So it’s just all the credit to them.”
Friday night was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Cardinals. It was a season-long goal, and it was something that every high school football player dreams about.
For the Canfield Cardinals, consider it a mission accomplished.