When Poland host Cardinal Mooney in the first round of the Division IV football playoffs, it'll be only the second time they've played ever and the first at Dave Pavlansky Field in Poland.
"The kids are excited, the coaches are excited and we're looking forward to playing week 11 at home," said Poland Coach Ryan Williams who is taking the Bulldogs to the playoffs for the first time under his leadership.
"It's a local game with a lot of excitement and Poland is an outstanding team," said Mooney Coach P.J. Fecko. "Everyone has been talking about Poland all year and they have an outstanding record."
The Bulldogs are the fourth seed and are 8-2 having lost two of their final three games. The Cardinals finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak.
"The nature of their schedule prepares them well, " said Williams whose team is 50 and 50 against their opponents while the Cardinals are 55 and 44 against their opposition. "We'll need to some things they haven't seen a whole lot of," Williams said.
Fecko was more diplomatic when asked about the Bulldogs saying, "It's going to very difficult for us to compete against those guys, get first downs and scores points."
While the coaches are focused on game plans, there is plenty of interest in this game due to several Mooney players and a lot of their fans live in Poland. Mooney's Vinny Gentile said a cousin, Nick Sabrin, plays right guard for the Bulldogs and it's a personal matchup.
Poland's Mike Diaz says he knows a lot of kids he grew up with that go to Mooney, adding its going to a fun game.
The Cardinals have played well down the stretch and Fecko was asked if they hit their stride. "I don't know. I don't know what our stride is. We just strive to get better each week. We got into the playoffs and see where it goes."
The winner of this game plays the winner of Salem-Steubenville on Friday, November 10 at a site to be determined.
NEWS AND NOTES:
MOONEY VS POLAND: In the only previous meeting, Mooney beat Poland 24-7 in the 2009 playoffs. That game was at Austintown Fitch Stadium. The Cardinals went on to win the state championship that year.
CARDINALS SECOND WEEK IN ROW: For the second straight week, Poland is hosting the Cardinals. Canfield beat the Bulldogs 38-0 in the final week of the regular season.
PLAYOFF TEAMS: Three opponents of the Bulldogs and Cardinals made the playoffs. Poland's opponents in the postseason are Struthers, Lakeview, and Canfield. Mooney's opponents are Akron Hoban, Akron SVSM, and Boardman.
Everett High School girls basketball coach Luther Weathersby said he believes the Seagulls are about to enter an era of prosperity after years of struggles. If Weathersby is eventually proven correct, he’ll fondly remember senior Kate Pohland as the catalyst of the program’s transformation.
“We’re going to be better this year, and our future is bright — we have a strong feeder program,” Weathersby said. “Kate represents the start of that brighter future. She’s leading the way for our future success. She works harder than anybody and also excels in the classroom. I can point to her and say, ‘You can be a great student and still be a good athlete.’ She’s a special kid.”
Here are five things to know about Pohland:
1. On the court, she’s a double-double machine. Last year she averaged 16 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. “I’ve become a more confident player because I’m more willing to take risks,” she said. “In terms of ball-handling, taking the ball up the court, playing multiple positions, I definitely have become more of a versatile player in the last couple of years.”
2. She’s involved in a variety of school activities, including leadership and student government. This month Pohland served as the chairperson of Everett High School’s annual food drive, which provides meals for local families in need. The drive, coordinated by the school’s leadership class in partnership with Volunteers of America, raised more than $21,000 and provided food baskets, gift cards and additional pantry items to 142 families.
“We deliver the food personally instead of going through a food bank,” Pohland said. “It’s heartwarming. Kids are hugging you and their parents are crying. It’s an amazing, rewarding experience. It humbles you, and makes you think about how lucky you are.”
3. She loves to read and write. “My favorite class right now is advanced placement literature,” she said. “I’m actually not super picky about what I read. I’ll pretty much read anything. I really love writing essays and exploring different avenues of writing styles, especially when my teacher lets me play and have freedom with my writing. But I also really love journaling in my down time, mostly about things that are going on in my life. I’d like to major in English in college, it’s a passion of mine, and I don’t want to give it up.”
4. She’s strongly considering an offer to attend George Fox University. “They want me to play basketball there, so I think that’s the path I’ll take,” she said. “It’s an awesome school because it gives (student-athletes) a balance between school and sports and allows (them) to do extracurricular activities. It wants me to succeed in all areas of my life.”
5. She’s thought about taking over the family business one day. Her mother, Holly Burkett-Pohland, is the owner of Burkett’s, a women’s clothing store in downtown Everett.
“My grandmother opened the store when my mom was 12,” Pohland said. “It has a mix of casual and dress (clothes). I come in to help out when I’m available, and I love being there. It’s a cool place to be because of the (welcoming) environment. My mom develops personal relationships with customers. That’s special because a lot of the big department stores don’t have that personal connection anymore.”