CANTON: St. Vincent-St. Mary needs to make room for another state championship football banner in its gymnasium.
The Fighting Irish defeated the Bellevue Redmen 42-21 in the Division III state championship Saturday at Fawcett Stadium in Canton before a crowd of 9,109.
“We never really talked about it, but it was always in the back of our minds,” Irish senior left guard Tom Paolucci said. “This was the goal, to get here and to win the state championship. … We come from a school where they only hang state championship banners in the gym. You only get acknowledged when you win the big one. Getting here and getting it done is a dream come true.”
Former coach John Cistone led St. V-M to state titles in Class AA in 1972 and Division III in 1981, 1982 and 1988.
“They are quick,” Cistone said earlier in the week. “A lot of them are track performers. It is probably the most speed on a team I have seen at the school.”
The Irish held a 435-247 edge in total yardage and also did not commit a turnover.
“It feels amazing, but it really has not sunk in yet that we won,” Irish senior right guard Bryan Wisor said. “I think it will sink in Monday when we are all in the locker room for the last time to clean up our stuff. That is when it will probably sink in that I went out with a win, and I went out with a state championship with my teammates.”
St. V-M and Bellevue both finish the season with 13-2 records.
“This has been a dream my whole life,” Irish senior center Nick Karipides said. “To share it with my best friends over here and all my brothers is special.”
Paolucci, Wisor and Karipides joined senior left tackle Derek Pierog, junior right tackle Derek Whiddon and senior tight end Kevin Alexander on the offensive line.
“This feels like a dream,” Pierog said. “I feel great right now. This is a dream come true.”
Solid special teams
Irish senior Dylan Labbe made 6-of-6 extra-point kicks, and sophomore Sean Devany punted three times and averaged 46.0-yards per punt.
Karipides and senior Joey Weber ran out a tad early and broke though a large banner that the cheerleaders were holding just prior to the opening kickoff.
The two players said they misunderstood a nearby OHSAA official on when to take the field. The rest of the team joined them a few seconds later.
Urban in the house
Ohio State University coach Urban Meyer and assistants Mike Vrabel, Luke Fickell and Kerry Coombs were spotted in the end zone nearest St. V-M as they warmed up and were nearby as the Irish took the field.
They remained on the sideline during the game.
Meyer carried on lengthy conversations with several people during the game on the St. V-M sideline near the 20-yard line, including Canton McKinley coach Todd Filtz and former St. V-M and current OSU defensive back Doran Grant. Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic was also in attendance.
St. V-M alumnus LeBron James tweeted that he was watching the game on television after a shoot-around with the NBA’s Miami Heat.
Here is a sampling of his tweets:
• “Good luck to the ST.V-M football team in the State Championship game today! [Dang] i wish i could be there to cheer u guys on. #GoIrish #Pride”
• “Newman Williams aka Earl Campbell aka Jerome Bettis is a animal!! Get out of his way! #OHchamps #GoIrish”
• “ YESSIR Newman Williams! Ran the whole team over! [Heck] of a fake punt call by Coach for a TD”
• “Get the ball to Parris [Campbell]!!”
• “Congrats to Coach Boarman and the team on winning the State Championship! It’s an amazing feeling. #OHchamps #GoIrish #WeAreStVM.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.