Cardinals prepared to carry on Canfield culture
CANFIELD — The Canfield Cardinals ascended the mountain last season and captured the first state championship in program history.
Now, they are back for more, but there’s a difficult journey ahead.
On top of losing star quarterback Broc Lowry, who tallied 3,527 total yards and 33 total touchdowns, to Indiana University, the Cardinals lost a massive senior class of 28 players and included key pieces such as Dom Marzano, AJ Murphy, Caden Kohout and Ryan Schneider, just to name a few. But, the Cardinals have turned the page and are ready to tackle the 2023 season the same way that they did last year.
“We have a good core back, and our seniors have been great through the winter time, through June and now through July and into camps,” Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky said. “The leadership has been really good for us, and obviously we’re going to be young at certain positions, but we just have to continue to grow.”
One of the biggest advantages that the Cardinals were afforded last year was depth. They had plenty of players, both young and old, that had been in the system for a few years and they knew what they were doing, where to be in certain situations, and how to live up to the expectations that Pavlansky has in place. That won’t be the case this year.
“The depth that we were afforded last year is not there we are very cognizant of that,” Pavlansky said. “We have to continue to build guys to create depth here in practice so when Aug. 18 comes around, we are confident with a two-deep depth chart.”
In order to build that depth, Pavlansky said reps and getting his new starters comfortable will be key leading into the season.
“Mistakes are going to happen, but we need to hang with them,” Pavlansky said. “Our senior leadership is going to be big. They have to continue to encourage those young guys, those first-year starters to continue to move forward, forget about the last play and move on to the next one.”
Running back Danny Inglis, an Iowa State commit, and two-way lineman Vincent Luce are just two players who are going to fill the void that was left by the senior class. Both recorded major snaps last year — Inglis as a running back and linebacker and Luce on the line — and know that they might not be able to replace that class but they can use what they were taught by them.
“I don’t think you can ever replace a class like that,” Luce said. “They had 28 kids and a lot of them played. But we are trying to take the key things that they taught us from their playing abilities. Just toughness, trying to execute to the best of their ability, and playing for your teammates.”
That also comes with putting their own stamp on the program. Inglis and Luce have been around for a few years and they know what it means to be a Canfield Cardinal. Toughness and a physical mindset are two things that come to mind but when it comes to leading, they want to be a voice for the entire team.
“We talked about it in the offseason, ‘What do we want our team to look like? Because at the end of the day, we are the seniors and we have to lead this team,” Luce said. “But it can’t just come from the seniors, we want to listen to the juniors and the sophomores, we want to listen to the whole team’s voice and we want to lead as a team.”
For Canfield, the big question — and it’s a massive one — is who will replace Lowry under center. The OFSFCA Art Teynor Player of the Year winner threw for 1,756 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 66.7 percent of his passes and running for another 1,702 yards and 26 touchdowns on 222 carries.
In the state championship game, Lowry accounted for touchdowns as a rusher, passer and receiver. The player who threw Lowry that touchdown pass, senior Paul Bindas, will have an opportunity to take over under center this season.
Pavlansky said Bindas, junior Tyler Scharrer and sophomores Enzo Cocca and Tyler Ravich are all getting reps so far through the summer. Now it comes down to who fits where.
“We are trying to figure out what the hierarchy is,” Pavlansky said. “Obviously, we are going to need a quarterback but we aren’t going to replace Broc. So it’s up to the coaches to find out what our quarterback’s comfort zones are and build off those strengths.”
Pavlansky added that the offense won’t change too much, but they are going to pair back what they allowed Broc to do last season.
Whoever is under center will have two talented running backs to hand off to, as Scottie Eaton and Danny Inglis return.
Eaton was all over the place last year and worked outside as a receiver as well. He tallied 284 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 41 carries while also catching 23 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He’s very shifty and can make players miss in the open field.
Next to Lowry, Inglis was Canfield’s top rusher, running for 816 yards and 12 touchdowns on 129 attempts. His biggest touchdown of the year came in the regional final against Chardon when he broke away for a 56-yard run that put the Cardinals ahead for their 14-7 win.
Now, he’ll probably play an even bigger role this season as Pavlansky will lean on both him and Eaton.
“They are great leaders, hard workers on the field, they are leaders by example, and they both have good speed for our level,” Pavlansky said.
Pavlansky said Ezra Stahl and MJ Pomopoco will get reps at fullback this season as well.
Out wide, the Cardinals will lean on guys like 6-foot-6 senior Jake Schneider, as well as Anthony Mazzella, Nick Berardino, Jace Jaffer, who is coming back from an injury, and Mike Malkovits.
“We have a good crew of receivers,” Pavlansky said. “Last year we had some really good senior receivers and our juniors really paid attention and they are really impressing us as seniors at the receiver position.”
Luce, Santino Cocca and Angelo Delucia return to an offensive line that helped the Cardinals rush for 223.7 yards per game and 49 total touchdowns. Luce will man the left tackle position. Cocca is moving to center but is still taking snaps at right guard, and Delucia is slotting in at the tight end position again. Pavlansky said they are still trying to fill the other three positions at the moment but either way, Luce is taking control of his unit this season and is looking to pass on the mentality that the Cardinals have taken on in the past.
“We have this thing called ‘FITE, Finish in the endzone,’ I kinda live by that now,” Luce said. “There is always going to be somewhere you have to finish. So I wanna pass that on to our offensive line as a unit. We are obviously going to be young. We have three returning starters, but as a whole, we need to be able to go after people, finish in the endzone and dominate the line of scrimmage.”
Cocca and Delucia return as defensive ends to man the front seven with Luce returning as a nose tackle.
“Those are three good guys to start with but we are still looking for a fourth,” Pavlansky said. “We need to build depth there as quickly as possible.”
Pavlansky said Alex Hewko, Conner Merrell and Seth Newman have all stood out in the offseason and training camp.
Inglis returns to the linebacker corps after a solid junior season where he manned the middle of the Cardinals’ defense. Pavlansky added that they still have position battles going on at linebacker with Stahl, Tyler Eckert and Colton Tenney all battling for snaps.
The secondary is where the Cardinals have a good amount of experience returning. Bindas, Eaton and Mazzella are all back in the secondary and Pavlansky said they are looking to find one more player to fill the final hole.
Berardino and Scharrer are two players that could play snaps in the secondary. The experience that the Cardinals return on the backend is a comforting start, but there’s still work to be done.
“Their experience has shown up in the summertime,” Pavlansky said. “They still have to get a lot better than where they are right now, but we aren’t starting back at square one.”
With all of the experience the Cardinals had last season, they only allowed 12.2 points per game, pitched two shutouts and only allowed one team to score more than 25 points.
Inglis will return as the punter for the Cardinals and junior Ethan Rittenour is slotted in for kicking duties right now but freshman Luke Goodrich has caught the eye of Pavlansky as well.
Eaton will also handle kick and punt return duties as well.
Aug. 18 vs. West Branch 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 at Mansfield Senior 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 vs. Olmstead Falls 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 at Poland 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 vs. Chaney 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs. Dover 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 vs. Holy Name 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Howland 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 at Boardman 7 p.m.
2022 Results (14-1)
at West Branch W 35-31
at Bellevue W 28-12
vs. Poland W 31-7
vs. St. Thomas (ON) W 42-0
at Chaney L 13-16
at Dover W 20-14 (OT)
at Youngstown East W 48-0
vs. Howland W 43-7
vs. Boardman W 35-6
#vs. New Philadelphia W 27-10
#vs. Aurora W 42-14
#vs. Ursuline W 33-24
#vs. Chardon W 14-7
#vs. Holy Name W 38-21
#vs. Bloom-Carroll W 35-14
Head coach: Mike Pavlansky, 23rd season, 176-72 at Canfield; 204-94 overall
Staff: Dan DiGiacomo (outside Linebackers), Angelo Ciminero (offensive line), Dean Conley (DFO), Matt Kalbfell (offensive assistant), Wally Hurdley (Inside linebackers, defensive coordinator), Jason Morell (wide receivers), Cameron Tareshawty (defensive backs), Joe Ignazio (defensive line), Ryan Scala (defensive backs), Jim Pluchinsky (running backs), Andrew Morchak (offensive line)
Division III, Region 9
Players on roster: 53
Returning letterwinners (14): Paul Bindas, Scottie Eaton, Alex Hewko, Jace Jaffer, Mike Malkovits, Jake Schneider, Tyler Scharrer, Santino Cocca, Andrew Hall, Danny Inglis, Vince Luce, Anthony Mazzella, Angelo DeLucia, Ezra Stahl
2022 season: Minus a loss to Chaney in Week 5, the Cardinals were perfect last season on the way to the program’s first state championship. They started the season with an electrifying 35-31 win over West Branch and finished it off with a 35-14 victory over Bloom-Carroll in the state championship.