The Cardinal football team knew that any chance it had of playing in Week 11 began with a win at rival Berkshire on Friday. The Huskies went out and thoroughly dominated the Badgers, 34-7, then waited for other Region 15 results to trickle in.
They learned their fate shortly after midnight. For the second time since the school's first playoff appearance in 2002, the 8-2 Huskies narrowly missed qualifying for the post-season.
“We talked about it before we knew anything,” said Cardinal coach Eric Cardinal. “The achievement is 8-2. All you can do is play your season. It is what it is and it worked out that way. You can’t take away what the kids did this season. Every year you look at all the 8-2 teams that make the playoffs and in the last 10 years we’ve been 8-2 twice and finished ninth (in the region) both times. We can’t control what goes on with other teams. Everything that we had to have happen tonight didn’t happen; everything that could have helped us.”
Cardinal finished 8-2 in 2003 but missed a playoff spot by less than three points. This year, the margin was just over a point.
The Huskies lost to Beachwood and Kirtland this season. Both schools will play in Week 11.
It was that Kirtland loss back on Oct. 3 that had the Huskies playing in a postseason mindset the final four weeks of the season. They knew another loss would leave them on the outside looking in and they won four straight games to close out the season.
As it turns out, the win over Berkshire turned out to be the Huskies’ Super Bowl.
“We had a great game,” Cardinal said. “It capped off a really good season. The icing on the cake would have been the playoffs, but it looks like we won’t have any icing.”
The Huskies pounded the Badgers on the scoreboard and in the box score. Cardinal outgained Berkshire, 304-56, to win the Kinsman Cup for the third straight season.
This was a total team victory,” Cardinal said. “You can go up and down the line. We had contributors on both offense and defense. It’s always exciting to do that because it’s a backyard rivalry and it was for the Kinsman Cup. It’s bragging rights.”
Kyle Simms hooked up with Zach Retych on a 33-yard scoring pass to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead with 3:16 left in the first quarter. Former Badger Chris Guinn then returned an interception 41 yards for another Cardinal touchdown and Clark Thurling closed out the first half scoring with a 33-yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a commanding 21-0 lead at the break.
“Chris also threw a halfback pass 40 yards, which was almost a touchdown,” Cardinal said. “It was a nice homecoming for him and his twin brother Jeff had a really nice game at linebacker too. Both the Guinn twins had a pretty good night.”
Berkshire’s Kyle Storm got the Badgers on the board with a 19-yard run in the third quarter but the Huskies wouldn’t allow them to get any closer.
Cardinal recorded seven sacks and held the Badgers to just nine yards rushing on 37 attempts. Berkshire’s leading rusher—Ben Blechschmid—never got started. He finished the game with 21 carries for just nine yards.
“What I was impressed with was how well we shut them down,” Cardinal said. “Ben is a good ball player and he’s been a good player for them for four years. We know him well. We thought we needed to contain him so obviously part of our game plan was designed to be aware of where he was on every play and we did so. We did a good job. We didn’t key exclusively on him but he’s a home run hitter and could beat us so we paid extra attention to him. I thought we did a good job.”
Simms threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Cody Purpura and Khaleel Samir ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring for the Huskies.
Simms completed just 3-of-5 passes for 49 yards but two of his completions went for scores. On the year, he was 19-for-42 with nine touchdown passes.
“He’s a young sophomore but he did a good job for us,” Cardinal said. “We had a decent running game this year so we were able to pick our spots (to throw). We didn’t need to protect or shield him but we found ourselves in certain situations where we could throw and it worked out pretty well for us.”
With two of Cardinal’s top running backs—Lester Troyer and Clark Thurling—held in check by the Badgers’ stacked defensive front, Thurling had a big night. He finished with a game-high 107 yards on just eight carries.
“We came out in a Stacked-I (formation) and they just said, ‘We’re going to put as many people in the box as we need to,’” Cardinal said. “We just ran our belly series and Clark got the ball and in the open field he’s a pretty good back. We pitched it out to him and he’s a pretty skillful runner. He was able to change speeds. He had three or four really nice runs.”
With Simms and Thurling handling things on the offensive side of the ball, Logan Schultz and the rest of the Husky defenders locked down the Badgers’ offense.
Schultz posted 10 tackles, 6 ½ for loss, and had three of Cardinal’s seven sacks. Thurling had nine tackles, including three for a loss, and Noah Farmwald had two sacks to go with his nine stops. Troyer and Josh Hostetler also had sacks.
“Logan Schultz was a man out there,” Cardinal said. “Between him and Lester Troyer and Nate Peters, who also started out at Berkshire, and Josh Hostetler, we were pretty active up front. I think the sacks came because they couldn’t run the ball real well on us.”