though. Cardinals coach Steve Trivisonno has said he hasn’t watched the
tape of that game to date.
The Mentor Cardinals were nearly the 2006 state champions in Division I. One point separated dreams from disappointment.
Hilliard Davidson 36, Mentor 35.
It’s been stuck in the Cardinals’ memories for a year. Haunting them. Taunting them. Motivating them.
Recently it’s been mostly the latter. That wasn’t always the case, though. Cardinals coach Steve Trivisonno has said he hasn’t watched the tape of that game to date.
“It took me a month or so after last year to watch it,” conceded Mentor senior quarterback Bart Tanski. “It’s pretty heart-breaking to watch it over and over again.”
It ought to be. It was an unimaginable way to lose any game. To lose a state championship game in such a fashion is unbearable.
The Cardinals led Davidson 14-0 early. They led 21-14 late. They gave up the tying touchdown with 3:29 left in regulation. They had a chance to end the game in the second overtime but couldn’t recover a fumble. They couldn’t stop a two-point conversion that ultimately decided the game.
They don’t need to watch the tape. It plays on the monitors in their minds. It has played for 52 weeks.
“To go out like that is probably the worst thing you can do,” Tanski said. “Double overtime, and we had the game won. That just makes us want to finish it this year, get to the same place and finish it.”
They’ll do exactly that when they travel again to Canton’s Fawcett Stadium on Saturday for a 7 p.m. kickoff against Cincinnati St. Xavier. The Bombers are Ohio's top-ranked team and in the top five in most national polls.
St. X is a formidable opponent, to be sure. But they represent less of a challenge than the ghosts of 2006, which have been nearly impossible to exorcize.
“We were there last year, we were close,” Trivisonno said. “We just needed to keep preparing in the weight room and keep preparing the way we do and keep playing the way we can play. We showed last year we could play with anybody and we’ve done it again this year.”
For the second season in a row, the Cardinals have put themselves in position to win a state championship. They will play for the 30th time in two years Saturday.
Getting back wasn’t without struggles.
The Cardinals lost opening night to Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, a Division IV team ranked nationally by USA Today (No. 8). They struggled to beat Massillon, winning 56-52. They lost to Euclid. They gave up 35 points to Cleveland Heights. They needed a last-second field goal to beat Cleveland Glenville in the Region 1 championship game.
So when the Cardinals were trailing Brunswick 14-10 at halftime of the state semifinal, it was nothing new.
Then something new happened. Mentor’s defense started making plays and never stopped. The Cardinals forced four Brunswick second-half turnovers and recorded a safety in what became a 39-14 victory. Finally, Mentor fans could enjoy a fourth quarter without needing blood pressure medication.
“Our defense played huge,” Tanski said. “Our defense sucked it up on the second half and that really helped us big-time.”
It will need to do that again.
Last year the Cardinals gave up 236 rushing yards and five touchdown runs – not to mention the winning conversion – to Davidson’s Bo Delande. Delande is now at Ohio State.
This week the Cardinals will have to face St. Xavier’s Darius Ashley, a prized recruit of Louisville, one of the premier offensive teams in college football.
Ashley wants to leave with a state title as much as any Cardinal. But he can’t possibly want one more.
No member of St. Xavier’s team has endured the disappointment the Cardinals experienced a year ago. They cannot possibly comprehend it. So while St. Xavier is no doubt grateful for the shot at a state title and the glory that goes with it, for the Cardinals it represents all that plus a shot at redemption.
“This is big for us,” Tanski said. “Going back two years in a row is huge. It was pretty tough, but I’m glad we did it.”