Chance of redemption: Valley teams seek redemption for the end of 2020 | News, Sports, Jobs


Antwan Brown (2) of JFK passes the ball behind tackle Michael Mauro (2) during the second half of Saturday night’s Regional Final match at Marlington High School. JFK won 20-13 in overtime. (David Dermer / Chronicle of Warren Tribune)

There is a common theme between the three Mahoning Valley schools heading to the state semifinals this weekend. Not just a theme, but also a driving force for all three schools since they played their last game of the 2020 season.


“We are definitely on a mission; we have been on mission since last November, ”said Ursuline elder Brady Shannon.

“We’ve been playing all year with a chip on our shoulder,” said Beau Brungard, senior from Springfield.

“We’ve been determined to get a second chance since we last left the field last season,” noted Warren John F. Kennedy senior Eddie Kiernan.

Tonight, Ursuline faces Port Clinton in the Division IV semifinals.

On Saturday in Division VI, Springfield will play Carey, while in Division VII, Warren John F. Kennedy will face Newark Catholic.

Ursuline, Springfield and Kennedy all seek to erase memories of a bad ending to an otherwise exceptional 2020 season.

Springfield hopes to return to the state final for a third straight year. Last season, the Tigers fell to Coldwater in the 38-35 Championship game. Led by seven, Coldwater scored a touchdown with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game. The Cavaliers then scored from a 26-yard field goal at the end of the time limit to secure a 38-35 victory.

“Losing like we did last year is a feeling that never goes away,” Brungard said. “In a way, it’s a good thing because it has motivated us for a year.

“There were a few small, fixable mistakes we made in this game. I remember leaving this field angry, sad, upset. I kept saying to my teammates, ‘Remember that feeling. Let’s not let that happen again.

As a reminder, the score from last year’s title match is plastered on the wall in Springfield’s weight room. Brungard said having to watch “Coldwater 38, Springfield 35” throughout the offseason sets the tone for 2021.

“Adversity can either tear a team apart or bring them closer,” said Brungard. “We are closer than ever. It started last winter with the off-season conditioning and the things that just built up from there.

“One of the bright spots from the past two years is that we have faced every kind of adversity imaginable. This includes our scout team from two years ago, many of whom are now beginners. Experience is a great attribute at this time of year.

While Springfield lost their state title match last year in a heartbreaking fashion, there was little drama in Kennedy’s 31-0 loss to New Bremen in the Division VII state championship.

Kiernan said the lopsided backhand immediately triggered the Eagles into buyout mode.

“Literally, as we left the field after this game, Brady Mocella and I made a pact that we wouldn’t let this happen again,” Kiernan said. “Losing like we did was overwhelming. I felt horrible for the seniors and I don’t want our senior class to go through the same thing.

“The pain of losing in the title game immediately turned into motivation for the whole team.”

Kiernan noted that the offseason schedule included weightlifting sessions at 5:30 a.m. Responsibility was paramount. The expectations were higher than ever. Because there is so much playoff experience within the program – Kiernan will play his 16th playoff game on Saturday – there was a collective understanding of what it would take to get back to the title game.

“This season has been pretty crazy. We lost heartbreaking games against Garfield and Mogadore, we had two of our games canceled, but through it all we really kept our focus, ”said Kiernan. “Looking back, adversity has been a blessing because it never shook us up and I think it validated everything we worked for during the offseason.”

The 2020 Ursuline season ended in a bizarre fashion. After the playoff victories against Villa Angela-St. Joseph, West Branch and Poland, the Irish were considered by many to be the favorites to win the Division IV state title.

Then, the day before the regional title match against Lake Catholic, Ursuline learned that five of her top players were scheduled to be absent due to COVID-related quarantines. The Irishman’s top quarterback Shannon as well as the team’s main rusher, main receiver and main tackle missed the game due to contact tracing.

Lake Catholic won the game 35-7.

“I have never experienced anything like this in my life,” Shannon said. “I literally had to sit in my living room and watch my team lose in the regional final on TV.”

Shannon said he feels “an immediate need” to turn the experience into a motivational tool for 2021.

“The following Monday we met as a team and we promised to do whatever it takes to win a regional championship and reach the national final,” said Shannon. “Last week we felt like we had taken our revenge by winning the region. But we still have something to prove.

Ursuline endured a 1-9 season in 2018, then moved up to 2-8 in 2019 before making the leap a year ago.

“Looking back, it’s pretty crazy what the seniors went through,” said Shannon. “Two very difficult seasons to start our careers in high school. Then, just as we started putting everything together last year, we kind of had the carpet under us. “

“Even this year we’ve had a lot of ups and downs during the regular season. It’s been a wild ride, but I like to think that everything we’ve been through has made us stronger and prepared us for the next two weeks.

Ursuline and Springfield are playing this weekend at Euclid. JFK will play their semi-final match at Marlington.

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