It’s been quite a football weekend in the Mahoning Valley.
Canfield and South Range, two schools less than six miles apart, both brought home their first state championships in school history on Friday. Warren JFK faced a strong New Bremen team and just barely managed to make it a perfect weekend for the Mahoning Valley, who were competing in the state championship for the second time in three years.
What made this weekend’s local success so special was the way each team celebrated next time in Canton.
As South Range head coach Dan Yeagley left the field after his team’s win over Ironton on Friday, Canfield head coach Mike Pavlansky was the first to greet him on the ramp leading to the press conference. Canfield actually watched the final minutes of South Range’s matchup from the touchline before taking the field against Bloom-Carroll.
“Mike and I trained together in an All-Star game, so we know each other pretty well.” Yeagley said on Friday. “We’re just happy. These kids know each other. They play baseball and everything else together. So it’s really exciting for the area. The Mahoning Valley is great and the football is good.”
Canfield later followed South Range’s win with a win of their own as they beat Bloom-Carroll 35-14. Pavlansky, who won his first state title after guiding Canfield to the state championship game in 2005, was grateful for all the local support.
“We were excited for Dan Yeagley and the South Range Raiders because their guys, like ours, put in a lot of work behind the scenes.” Pavlansky said during his press after Friday’s game. “They showed up here in Canton and we were lucky enough to catch the last two minutes of that ball game and congratulate Dan, his staff and his team. To then continue with our efforts.
“Northeast Ohio plays pretty good football and I don’t think our boys are going to take a backseat to anyone.”
In all honesty, there might not have been a better script than what was playing at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Friday.
Pavlansky and Yeagley have a combined 55 years of head coaching experience, and both coaches have managed teams run by major senior classes. The Cardinals came into this season with 28 seniors and South Range had 20.
It was a true testament to the programs both coaches had built, and in the end the hard work and leadership put in by their seniors resulted in state championships.
“It’s so important that seniors get through it all the way and even play when they’re young because they understand what we’re trying to do.” said Yeagley. “These guys are also very intelligent players so it’s nice that we don’t have to start over next year and we can actually expand on what we already know and build from there. This season has taken four years of hard work and work to get to where we are now.”
When Pavlansky was leading the Canfield team to the 2005 state championship, Warren JFK head coach Dom Prologo was coaching the Cardinals’ defensemen. So when the opportunity arose to support his former head coach and a good friend, Prologo jumped at the chance.
Despite not playing until Saturday, the Eagles traveled to Canton a day early to support their Mahoning Valley counterparts, and despite falling just short of their own goals, Prologo was pleased with the success both Canfield and South Range had .
“It just speaks to the kind of football we play in the Mahoning Valley,” Prologo said Saturday. “That’s why we let three teams play in the state finals from seven games. We fell a little short, but congratulations to the other two. I have connections with both of them and with coach Pav and I’m very, very close and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
The Mahoning Valley hasn’t had this much success during a state championship weekend in quite some time. The last time two Mahoning Valley teams won state titles in the same year was in 2009 when Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney won titles on the same day.
So here we are again with another special weekend dedicated to football in the Mahoning Valley.
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