Canfield getting defensive, ready for ND-CL

After blanking the Aurora Greenmen, the Canfield Cardinals have a much tougher task against Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin .

Last week, Canfield defeated Aurora behind a tough defensive stance, 23-0. Aurora was held to 157 yards, and Canfield posted its fourth shutout, which is something the Cardinals take pride in doing.

In this Division III, Region 9 semifinal with ND-CL, defense and special teams will be key.

Canfield faces the Lions Friday at Mollenkopf Stadium, starting at 7:30 p.m.

“Our defense has played well all year,” Canfield coach Mike Pavlansky said. “You don’t normally get to the playoffs without a very good defense. They always do their best job to get after it at all times. That’s all I can really ask for as a coach.”

Canfield (11-0) has held teams to just 7.2 points per game, while its offense averages 31.9 points each game.

With most of the starters on this team being seniors, they all played significant minutes in Canfield’s last playoff appearance (2015) when it was the seventh-seed against St. Vincent-St. Mary. Canfield missed the playoffs at 7-3 in 2016.

“Eight of our seniors played against St. V’s two years ago. They all played a good amount of time in that game so they know what it takes to win at that level,” Pavlansky said.

He believes the experience the team had in that game has helped mold it into what it is now.

On the other side, NDCL is averaging 30.8 points per game while giving up just 14.2 points each game.

Both teams have played multiple playoff teams during the regular season to prepare for this game. ND-CL faced Padua Francis, University School, Benedictine and Archbishop Hoban. Canfield faced off against Struthers, Poland, Alliance and Chardon.

“Playing playoff teams throughout the year helps you prepare for these big moments,” Pavlansky said. “Special teams will be key on both sides. We’ve played much better the last few weeks in that department. ND-CL plays amazing special teams. Their kicker (Gabe Bkric) hit a 53-yard field goal last week and nearly hit a 60-yard field goal early in the year.”

Pavlansky said because of both teams play style, everything will be more important than any other week.

Both offenses run some semblance of an option and Pavlansky believes that helps his team quite a bit.

“Offense is a lot like us, but we don’t run as much option as they do. Everything shakes down to be a tough game,” Pavlansky said. “Their defense is all built on speed and they do it better than most. If you want to play great defense or have a great offense, you’ll need great line play either way. We have that because each week, they’ve gotten better.”