CANTON, Ohio — Today's one of those days where I can say I have the best job in the world. I spent eight hours calling two high school football state championship games in an amazing setting in Canton.
Let's get to some final thoughts from Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium after both Chardon and St. Edward captured state titles during our WKYC.com doubleheader:
1. Let's start with Chardon, who got all they could handle from Hamilton's Father Badin but gutted out a 21-14 victory for their second straight Division III state championship. The Hilltoppers never seemed to lose their focus this year, although head coach Mitch Hewitt told me that he and the coaching staff took the players to task after a 27-14 playoff win over Canfield.
"We ripped them in films because we thought they weren't improving," Hewitt explained. The team responded with its best practice of the year that following Monday and never looked back the rest of the way.
2. Mitch Hewitt loves Chardon, and Chardon loves Mitch Hewitt.
"There's nowhere else I'd rather be. There's nowhere else that I'd rather raise my kids," he told me. As a running back and linebacker, Mitch led the Hilltoppers to a berth in the 1998 state title game. Now as a coach at his alma mater, Hewitt has won back-to-back state championships.
Can it continue? "The kids that walk through our hallways are great kids that come from great homes. As long as we can maintain that, Chardon football is going to have a great future."
Translation: He's not going anywhere, and the Hilltoppers aren't either.
3. I thought the key to Chardon's win was an adjustment they made on offense in the second half. They were able to get A.J. Bruce involved in the Wing T swinging around the ends. He rushed for 88 yards on 7 carries with a touchdown in the second half.
4. And as almost always seemingly happens in these state championship games, special teams plays a huge role. Chardon was able to take advantage of a short punt by Badin and put together a 29-yard drive, capped off by Sean Carr's touchdown run to win it with just over a minute to play. In the nightcap, Springfield gave up a safety due to a bad punt snap and Joel Castleberry blocked a field goal in the 4th quarter to help seal the St. Edward victory.
5. St. Edward is so good at playing complimentary football. Danny Enovitch ran for 210 yards and two touchdowns, the defense came up with numerous stops in the red zone, and they never make a mistake in their kicking game. When Christian Ramon fumbled in the 4th quarter, his defensive teammates picked him right up and came up with a huge stop to keep the Eagles up by two possessions.
"We're a team," St. Edward head coach Tom Lombardo told me afterwards. "It's not one facet. We're together and even though we have mostly one-way players, kids know how to pick each other up. That's how it works."
6. So the Hilltoppers get their second state title, while St. Edward picks up number five. That sets the stage for Kirtland on Saturday night as the Hornets will look to win their fourth straight state championship and seventh overall. They've got a boatload of streaks on the line as well as they'll face a very good Versailles team in the Division V state championship game.
Tyler Carey will join me for all of the action from here in Canton on WKYC.com, the WKYC app, Facebook Live, and YouTube. Our coverage will begin at 7:20 p.m. Talk to you then!