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Overcoming adversity was Canfield’s norm

Staff photo / Neel Madhavan Canfield’s Jack Davis (28) goes up for a reception over Bloom-Carroll’s Carter Cornelius during the Cardinals’ 35-14 win over the Bulldogs in the Division III state championship.

CANTON — Adversity is a part of any state championship football team.

How do you respond to it? How do you overcome it?

Throughout their 2022 state championship run, the Canfield Cardinals faced plenty of adversity. But one moment in the middle of Canfield’s season stuck out to head coach Mike Pavlansky as he reflected on their season Friday night.

His team was coming off its lone loss, a 16-13 defeat at the hands of the Chaney Cowboys, and the Cardinals were ready to watch the film and learn from their mistakes.

After doing so, a motivated Broc Lowry stood in front of his team and gave a speech that locked his teammates in the rest of the way.

“We saw the mistakes that we made, and that was the first major challenge that we faced,” Pavlasnky said. “Before we left there, Broc stood up in front of the team and said ‘Guys, if we win 10 in a row, we’re going to be state champions.’ We walked out of that meeting and our guys focused in on that. Now here we are.”

Throughout the season, the Cardinals may not have been considered the favorite. They had lost a talented group of seniors that led them multiple playoff runs. They had lost a talented group of skill players that were key targets for Lowry all of last season. They also went through the growing pains of any team looking to have success. Still, the Cardinals battled on.

Canfield downed West Branch in Week 1 and went on to beat Dover in overtime after its loss to Chaney. The Cards also overcame a very skilled and talented Ursuline team in the playoffs that seemingly scored at will this season, averaging 37.3 points per contest.

“We were underdogs a lot of the year, and there were definitely some games leading up to the regional final where we weren’t the favorite,” Canfield senior linebacker/fullback Dom Marzano said. “So, getting over those games were big for us. When we were the favorite in some games, though, we just tried to do our job.”

That showed throughout their playoff run, and especially in their regional final win over the Chardon Hilltoppers.

The defending state champions had knocked them out of the playoffs the past two years, but the Cardinals didn’t back down. Rather, they accepted the challenge of knocking off the top team and delivered their best performance of the season in a 14-7 victory to accomplish their first goal of the season, winning a regional final.

Still though, there was work to be done and despite accomplishing a major goal in defeating Chardon and winning their first regional title since 2005, the Cardinals locked in and defeated Holy Name in the state semifinals.

“If you look down the road, you’re going to hand your equipment in on a Monday and end your season with a loss,” Pavlansky said. “These guys never did that, and I think it’s a great credit to our seniors and our senior class for keeping the underclassmen focused throughout these six weeks.”

So, when it came down to facing adversity in the state championship game, the Cardinals were prepared. The Bulldogs cut a 14-0 lead in half with 5 seconds left in the first half after putting together their best drive of the game and the Cardinals responded coming out of the break.

Bloom-Carroll’s remaining four drives spanned 18, 17, 39 and 62 yards, with the final drive coming in the last six minutes of the game and resulting in a touchdown.

“We talked all week long about just playing a football game,” Pavlansky said. “We told them if you just play a football game, at the end of 48 minutes, you’re going to be happy with the outcome, win or lose.”

Overcoming adversity and winning a state championship in the same day? You could say the Cardinals were happy with the outcome.

gmacafee@tribtoday.com.

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