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The little conference with big winners

December 8, 2013
By LOU CALI JR. - Tribune Chronicle correspondent ( , Underthelights

The movie Little Giants takes place in mythical Urbania, Ohio (there is an Urbana in the state).

There's no reference in the film as to which part of the state the town is in, but chances are it's near the Indiana border. Why? Because that's where most little giants reside, more precisely, in the Midwest Athletic Conference.

The MAC seems to have a monopoly on small-school success in the state. That trend continued Saturday at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium as Maria Stein Marion Local and Coldwater each added to the long list of state championships the league holds.

Marion Local defeated Glouster Trimble, 33-0, to win the first-ever Division VII crown and its third in a row (the previous two coming in D-VI). Coldwater's 24-7 victory over Columbus Bishop Hartley gave the Cavaliers their second-straight D-V title.

The Coldwater game began in the morning, while the Flyers won their game in the evening. Scattered throughout the stadium at the early game were Marion Local jackets and many fans wearing Coldwater gear could be seen at the late game.

During the post-game press conference, Coldwater coach Chip Otten was asked if he had a rooting interest in the Marion Local game. As he answered, three Cavalier players nodded their heads in agreement.

"These guys know all their players," Otten said. "When the game is over, it's over. Some of them will be going to college and rooming with their guys. We have a great respect for the teams in our conference. We want them to win."

As the game ended, Coldwater fans began chanting "M-A-C." The Flyer crowd followed suit later.

Hartley coach Brad Burchfield, whose team scheduled Coldwater for the first time this season and only two losses came to the Cavs, has nothing but admiration for both Coldwater and the MAC.

"That's been a trademark of all the MAC teams for so long," said Burchfield when asked about Coldwater's relentless pursuit defensively, "their ability to play so hard for so long."

How dominant has the MAC been amongst small schools? The conference now has 30 state championships in football and 107 overall.

STREAKING COLDWATER: The Cavaliers reached the state finals for the fifth year in a row (they were runner-up 2009-11). That total is third all time behind Newark Catholic (eight) and Cleveland St. Ignatius (six). Coldwater also has reached the playoffs 18 straight years, four behind all-time leader St. Ignatius.

MORE MAC ATTACK: In the state semifinals, Marion Local defeated league foe Delphos St. John's. That game flip-flopped the two in the standings of best playoff winning percentage amongst schools with at least 50 games. The Flyers are now atop the list with a 52-9 record while St. John's is 52-10. Coldwater (55-15) is seventh on the list.

OOPS: The referee in the D-V game did not want to hear any more chirping from Burchfield. And he inadvertently let everyone know about it.

During a second-quarter timeout, Burchfield wanted to get the ref's attention. Earlier in the game he was livid about a call. The ref did not shut his crowd microphone off and everyone in the stadium heard him say, "I don't want to hear it anymore. I don't want to hear it. You coach and I will referee."

UNBELIEVABLE: The D-I final was supposed to be a shootout. It did not disappoint those who crave great offensive games.

Cincinnati Moeller's 55-52 victory over Mentor gave the Crusaders their second-consecutive title. In the process there were at least 17 team or individual state-finals records set.

Moeller quarterback Gus Ragland is one of the best I've seen in a long time and put on a show few present will forget. He completed 12 of 13 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 26 times for 189 yards and five touchdowns. That's right, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior accounted for all eight Crusader scores.

He showed great arm strength on quick outs and unbelievable touch on deep balls. He has not made a college commitment yet and most of the D-I schools interested are Ivy League colleges. That may change.

NOT FAR BEHIND: Mentor quarterback Conner Krizancic, the son of former Girard basketball coach Bob Krizancic, had an almost-equally stellar game. The 6-2, 190-pound senior completed 35 of 55 passes for 419 yards, two TDs and one interception. He also ran for 102 yards and three scores.

Krizancic, who will play receiver at Cincinnati, may have been one of the toughest players during the championship weekend, regardless of position. With less than a minute to go and the Cardinals trailing 55-45, he tried to score from two yards out but was met head on by several Moeller defenders.

He was on the turf for quite a while and was quite wobbly when he came to the sidelines. He missed just one play before staggering back in to throw a three-yard touchdown pass. The ensuing onside kick went out of bounds and the Crusaders killed the clock.

BYE BYE STARK COUNTY: Finally, and on somewhat of a sad note, after a 24-year stay in Canton and Massillon, the championships will move to Ohio Stadium in Columbus for the next two years.

This was a move that began a few years ago and was backed by Jim Tressel, who was coach at Ohio State at the time. While that was possibly a recruiting ploy, I'm old enough to remember when the games were there. The stadium is simply too big to create the type of atmosphere the players and fans deserve.

A source told me OHSAA officials were upset that Stark County did little to promote the games and seek sponsorships. Even if that is true, I can say that the groups in Massillon and Canton did an outstanding job of running things as smoothly as possible.

Hopefully it's just a two-year absence.



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