Quarterback faces teammates in a huddle
Newark Catholic quarterback Cole Canter (2) gives the play to his teammates. Newark Catholic defeated Nelsonville-York 38-14 in Nelsonville, Ohio on Aug. 27, 2021. [Billy Schuerman/WOUB]

Newark Catholic is seeking its first state title since 2007, but a familiar foe stands in the way

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In the preseason, all high school teams dream of making it to a state title game. For Newark Catholic, their goal wasn’t just to make it to Canton, but to end the season as state champions. Coach Ryan Aiello emphasized this to his team following their 14-7 win over Warren JFK in the state semi-finals last week.

“Getting there was the first step. Proving to themselves that they can get to that level is big for us,” Coach Ryan Aiello said. “Marion Local is the standard for football. We have a tremendous amount of respect for their program and what they bring to the table.”

Newark Catholic runningback Mason Hackett (16) evades tackles from Nelsonville york defenders Nathan Martin (72) and Gavin Richards (1). Newark Catholic defeated Nelsonville-York 38-14 in Nelsonville, Ohio on Aug. 27, 2021. [Billy Schuerman/WOUB]

Last week’s win was the Green Wave’s 14th win of the season, which matches the record held by the 1985 and 1987 Newark Catholic teams that won state titles. A win Saturday would be the most wins in a season for any Green Wave team ever. If Newark Catholic hopes to win its 15th game of the season, it’ll come against a Division VII powerhouse in the Marion Local Flyers.

The last time Marion Local and the Green Wave met was when the Flyers defeated Newark Catholic 28-21 in the 2012 Division VI state title game, which was amid a stretch when Marion Local was the definition of dominance. In the last decade, Marion Local has made nine state title appearances, taking home the trophy seven times. Four of their seven state titles have come at the Division VI level.

Both Newark Catholic and Marion Local’s defenses have played well in the playoffs and showed signs of dominance along the way. Opponents who have played the Green Wave in the playoffs have been held to 11 points per game on average. None of Newark Catholic’s five opponents in the playoffs have exceeded 20 points. The Falcons have only conceded 21 points so far in five playoff games, but they will have a tough test against the high-powered Green Wave offense.

Cole Canter of the Newark Catholic Green Wave rushes the ball against Connor Corbett (7) of the Heath defense in their game against the Heath Bulldogs on Oct. 15, 2021. The Bulldogs went to win the game 28-21. [Alex Eicher | WOUB]

Newark Catholic’s offense is led by quarterback Cole Canter, who was a member of the All-GG team. Canter’s senior campaign has been record-breaking. His 31 passing touchdowns set a school record for passing touchdowns thrown in a season.

Alongside Canter is running back Mason Hackett. What Hackett lacks in size, he makes up for in athleticism and speed. Canter and Hackett connected on a swing pass last week that saw Hackett outhustle the JFK defenders to get the edge for one of Newark Catholic’s two touchdowns.

Canter also has an arsenal of receivers he can use at his expense. Brandon Buchanan, Grant Moore and Tristan Gorius highlight the weapons for Canter.

On Saturday, Newark Catholic will be looking for its first state title since 2007. Coach Ryan Aiello will be coaching in his first state title game as head coach for the Green Wave. A win would be monumental for the Newark Catholic football program and the Green Wave community will be in full support at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton Saturday morning.

“Our community is one of a kind. They embrace this football team and embrace the kids here from an overall school and community standpoint,” Aiello said. “It’s incredible to have their support and I think our kids can feed off that as well when they can see that support system standing behind them and supporting them.”

Game time is set for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.