Ravenna, OH- Third times a charm right! For the first time since 2005, the Canfield Cardinals are heading to the state final four. In a game at Portage Community Banks Stadium in Ravenna that felt nothing short of frigid with 20 mph gusty winds and a wind chill in the single digits. That didn’t stop the Cardinals from downing the two-time defending state champion Chardon Hilltoppers 14-7, who've had their number in the separate 2020 and 2021 matchups.
The first quarter was a strong showing of each team’s defense. In the first drive, Chardon defense forced a sack and interception on back-to-back plays. That was followed by Canfield’s defense stuffing Caleb Hewitt on a short 4th down conversion.
Midway through the second quarter, Chardon’s special teams led by Austin Leszynski and Drago Vujaklija blocked a punt to put the offense in great position at Canfield’s 40-yard line. Two plays later, AJ Bruce broke loose for a 35-yard touchdown to put Chardon ahead 7-0.
Canfield on the next possession started to put together a strong drive before fumbling inside the red zone. Their defense came out and Anthony Mazzella gave the offense another chance in the red zone with a game changing forced fumbled three plays later. The Indiana commit found his fullback Dom Marzano for a quick strike to tie the game 7-7 with 2:49 left in the second quarter.
Into the second half, Canfield found momentum. After forcing a three-and-out, the offense put together a strong drive down to Chardon’s 1 but was eventually stopped by Chardon’s defense.
Late into the 4th with about 4:28 on the clock, Danny Inglis ran 56 yards untouched to put the Cardinals ahead 14-7. Chardon had one last chance but ultimately it was the strong defense of Canfield to stuff Alex Henry on a 4th down quarterback run.
When asked postgame what was the message to his team at halftime to keep the momentum, Canfield Coach Pavlansky said
“Keep playing, keep playing that’s all. We knew it was going to be a battle, it was going to be close, it was going to be tough defenses all the way through, you just got to keep fighting.”
The Cardinals did just that.
The 12-1 Cardinals will move on to face Holy Name next Friday at Euclid Community Stadium for the state semifinals. Holy Dame defeated Padua, 56-21 in the Division III, Region 10 finals. This will end the Chardon Hilltoppers season at 11-2
This game recap is brought to you by Daystar Ford in Garrettsville!